Full Circle: Daughter Achieves Success Where Mother Found Renewal
Goodwill Summer Program Inspires Young Woman’s Dream for Future
In a way, Precious Davis and her mother began life at the same time.
Prior to her fifth child’s arrival, Shirley Davis’ life had been mostly about addiction. At 40, she had never worked a job. She had never really been a parent — her family was raising her other children.
“You should always be independent and believe in yourself,” Shirley recalls. “But when you’re on drugs and alcohol and stuff, you don’t really know who you are. You don’t know how to sleep; you don’t know how to eat. I had to regain all of that.”
After Precious’ birth, mother and daughter began their journey together at Renewal House, a nonprofit organization in Nashville that provides specialized addiction treatment for women and their children. The pair spent 14 months in a residential treatment program. In 2002, staff at Renewal House referred Shirley to Goodwill for help finding employment.
Goodwill hired Shirley as a donations processor in its downtown warehouse. While learning how to lead a sober life and to work, Shirley also learned to be a mother. Over the years, she turned her life around.
When Precious was 13, her mother heard from coworkers that Goodwill offered several summer programs for youth to prepare them for the working world. She pushed Precious to apply.
“Because of what my mom has been through in her past, she didn’t have many opportunities,” Precious recalls. “And she wanted this for me. She got my nieces involved as well, because she thought it would help us grow up and give us more options.”
Precious joined Goodwill’s Summer Job Readiness Program in 2015. Rebecca Vance, who was then an intern at Goodwill helping facilitate the program, recalls meeting Precious for the first time.
“She was very shy and quiet, and she really didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life,” Rebecca says. “She thought maybe she might like to be an accountant.”
In the four-week program, Precious and the other students took field trips to explore careers, learned life skills such as financial literacy, created resumes and practiced for job interviews. Precious enjoyed it so much, she participated again in 2016.
Then in 2017, Precious applied for Opportunity Now, a youth employment initiative overseen by Goodwill in Northwest Nashville and funded by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. The goal of the six-week program, in which participants work in paid internships, is to allow them to gain experience in a work setting and prepare for careers while receiving guidance and support.
By then, Rebecca had been named the program’s Internship Coordinator at Goodwill, and she had become a friend and mentor to Precious — frequently giving her advice, helping her with homework and to apply for jobs.
“I’m really glad to have Rebecca in my life,” Precious says.
At the start of the program, Rebecca reviewed the list of possible internships with Precious. One employer immediately stood out: Renewal House.
“I was like, ‘Yes! I have to work there,’” Precious says. “Because my mom and I have a history there. It really changed our lives for the better. She’s been working at Goodwill for 17 years now. She’s a homeowner and has two cars as well. Renewal House and Goodwill helped her with that.
“So, I went there and experienced everything they did for my mom, up close and firsthand. It was cool because I was like, ‘They did this for me.’ Now they are doing it for other women and their kids, and that really inspired me.”
Precious rejoined Opportunity Now in the summer of 2019 and repeated her internship at Renewal House. Through her internship experiences, Precious has decided she wants to become a social worker. She recently graduated from high school and has enrolled to begin classes with Nashville State Community College in the fall, with hopes of eventually moving to a four-year, historically black college or university.
She says interviewing skills acquired in Goodwill summer programs helped her to get her current job in the gift shop at Bridgestone Arena. And thanks to what she learned about financial literacy, Precious has saved $5,000 toward the purchase of a car.
“I’ve seen her grow a lot over the years,” Rebecca says. “She is much more confident and has a plan for her life.”
Precious’ mother also is overjoyed by her daughter’s progress.
“With help from my family, Renewal House and Goodwill, I was able to raise my daughter into a beautiful young lady,” Shirley says. “She wants to live her life, and I’m so proud of her.”
Goodwill’s Opportunity Now
Goodwill’s Opportunity Now program continued through the summer of 2020, with 35 high-schoolers accessing internships. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most worked virtually. Employers partnering with Goodwill’s cohort included Meharry Medical College, Preston Taylor Ministries, West Nashville Dream Center, Pink Glitter Thrift, NES, Needlink and Goodwill.
For more information on Goodwill’s Opportunity Now program or other youth opportunities, jobs or apprenticeships, call Goodwill Career Solutions at (615) 742-4151.
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