LaVerne Robertson Davis struggled to find her place when she first attended college, at the University of New Orleans some 40 years ago. Now, a revolutionary scholarship program is giving her a chance to pursue her lifelong passion for music.
Davis left UNO after finding herself out of place on campus. She founded her own small business, and for years she was content working to provide for her children as she is now a proud grandmother of seven. But she continued singing in several choirs, and her life-long ambition to make music remained, even as she went about the busy life of a mother and a business owner.
Luckily, she had role models who demonstrated the value of nontraditional education. Too often, early setbacks prevent otherwise talented scholars from achieving their educational dreams. Davis’ family was an exception to the rule. In the case of her mother, she earned a teaching degree through a rigorous process that included an hour commute on a Greyhound, each way, for each class. Davis’ sister set another strong example, returning to college to earn a Ph.D. at age 54. The family’s perseverance in the face of strong obstacles, both financial and social, gave Davis the courage to pursue her dream of singing.
Davis enrolled in the music program at Dillard, one of the South’s many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (or HBCUs) at age 59, 40 years after her first attempt at college, to strive for a goal she had long thought was impossible: a degree in vocal performance and a career as a singer. Her passion was undeniable; the only question was how to put together money for tuition.
Scholarships for students at HBCUs are few and far between. Financial difficulties and cuts in funding prevent many students from going after an education that could substantially improve their position in life. In Davis’ case, she found herself out of resources after already completing most of her degree. Thanks to the Tom Joyner Foundation, Davis was able to continue her education with a scholarship at age 63. In partnership with Allstate, the Tom Joyner Foundation has established Quotes for Education (QFE), which aims to help students like Davis.
Since then, Davis has been vocal about the importance of scholarships at HBCUs. She hopes to provide an example for others who might be hesitant to return to school, or attend it in the first place, because of financial difficulties. The QFE’s purpose is to help people who want to pursue higher education at an HBCU but are hindered by financial issues to achieve their goals in spite of their financial situation. The program receives funding through a partnership with Allstate. The company will donate $10 to HBCU scholarships for every person who receives a free insurance quote, online or via the phone and mentions the QFE program. All funds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation and directly fund student scholarships. The last chance to contribute is November 30, 2016.