Determined to give back to the Proviso East community, Vau’ve Davis, a graduate of the high school herself, created a scholarship looking beyond the need for tuition assistance and offering awarded seniors financial assistance while they pursue opportunities after high school.
“One thing that was important for me is that they were not constrained to ‘oh this just has to be for books,’ “ said Davis. “I understand, especially if you have a single parent, sometimes it could just be those little things and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to receive it [the scholarship] and they still might need the day to day.”
Davis created The Proviso East Class of 2003 Scholarship Fund a little over five years ago, to aid graduating seniors with a monetary gift they are allowed to use at their discretion, giving those students who are not pursuing a traditional college education the opportunity to receive assistance as well.
Students applying for the scholarship can submit a business plan mapping out their entrepreneurial journey for consideration.
It was important for Davis to widen the scope of what the scholarship could be used for as many students, especially those from low-income communities, face a broader set of hurdles than just tuition, as she did herself.
“As a product of a single parent, there were a lot of struggles and there wasn’t a lot of financial support so receiving scholarships was incredibly important in that whole journey,” said Davis. “Even though I was accepted in various universities, you still have your hurdles of getting there.”
The logistics, as Davis said, sometimes go unseen. From travel costs, to clothes, to additional supplies, a college student faces financial challenges in various ways.
“You might need everyday things beyond your books, room, and board,” Davis said, adding she recalls spending her high school lunch breaks applying for scholarships and wanted to help future students not face quite as many challenges. “That was in the back of my mind, that I wanted to create that for students coming after me because I knew how hard it is, having to go through the process.”
Davis went on to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a degree in psychology with a minor in African American studies, working in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years.
“It has been a passion of mine working with organizations that are led by missions and helping at-risk populations,” Davis said.
While the need for a college education has been ingrained in the minds of students through societal pressures, Davis said students should be encouraged to pursue other avenues as well.
“College is honestly not for everyone,” Davis said. “It doesn’t sound good that college isn’t for everybody but that is a reality. My generation was raised on ‘go to school, go to college and you’ll figure it out late,’ but there are other viable options where you don’t have to spend so much of your life figuring out ‘oh this isn’t for me’.”
Davis, who grew up in Forest Park, said the Proviso community and students in the Proviso Township High School District 209 have faced challenging times but continue to persevere despite the often-negative perception of the district.
Despite witnessing gang activity and losing friends to gun violence while attending Proviso East, Davis continues to advocate for the Maywood community, where her home church is based, saying that the tight-knit community has a special place in her heart.
“Maywood is still very vibrant,” Davis said. “It is still thriving and there are still some very excellent students in spite of the reputation and some of the things they may see and there are a lot of people that are committed to student success.”
Despite recent controversies pertaining to the board of education, Supt. James Henderson, and the 2022 teacher strike, Davis said positive news is still coming out of the district and the Maywood community.
“They are really resilient, in spite of the things they are dealing with, community wise and personally, they are doing excellent work,” Davis said. “I feel that there is a lot of potential…There are students and people that are doing great things. “
Davis hopes to draw support from the Proviso community for future scholarships, so they can continue to help local students pursue their post high school goals, additionally encouraging Proviso East students to apply for future scholarships. More information can be found online at provisoeastscholarshipfund.com.
In order to aid the scholarship’s success, Davis has extended the donations to everyone, not just alum from the 2003 class.
This year’s recipients have already been chosen and will be presented with a check for $500 during Proviso East’s Baccalaureate ceremony on June 7 at 6 p.m. The ceremony will be held at Proviso East, 807 S. 1st Avenue, Maywood.