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Former CCCC student named Sanford Herald Citizen of the Year

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Click to enlarge,  Kamilah Davis, The Herald's 2015 Citizen of the Year, said she is inspired to give back to the community after receiving aid when she was young. Davis volunteers with The Salvation Army, United Way, The Friends of the Lee County Library, Communities In Schools of Lee County, the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Upward Sports, among many other organizations around Sanford. Photo by Hannah Hunsinger, The Sanford Herald

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Kamilah Davis, The Herald's 2015 Citizen of the Year, said she is inspired to give back to the community ... (more)

01.27.2016College & CommunityCollege GeneralStudents/Graduates

By Shawn Taylor, The Sanford Herald

SANFORD - Activist, volunteer, scholar, Girl Scout leader, prom queen, coach, businesswoman, playwright and -- not least of all -- mother of two.

Those who know Kamilah Davis, The Sanford Herald's 2015 Citizen of the Year, wonder how she finds time to sleep at night.

"I'm a night owl," admitted Davis, who has spent her entire life in Sanford. "Even though I want to sleep, I can't. There's always something else I can do."

While Davis works as a teen director at the Boys and Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County, a position she's held since September, she says she makes a point to be active in the community outside of work as well.

Simply looking at the titles she holds should show she's accomplished that goal.

In 2015, Davis was a member of the Communities In Schools of Lee County board, the secretary of the Salvation Army of Lee County advisory council, a member of The Friends of the Lee County Library board, chairman for the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce ambassadors program and a member of the United Way of Lee County board.

That was not an exhaustive list. She also joined the committee for the Sanford Area Block Party to be held in April, is a member of Sanford Business & Professional Women, is a cheer chairman and cheerleading coach for Upward Sports basketball, leader of Girl Scout Troop 737 and last year's president of the Central Carolina Jaycees.

"I'm the type of person that can't say 'no,' " Davis said. "Sometimes I say 'Oh my gosh, I'm not going to do this next year,' but I never quit."

Heather McKenzie, CIS of Lee County executive director and The Herald's Citizen of the Year recipient in 2011, emphasized that Davis doesn't do each of these things just to add a letterhead or bolster her resume. Instead, she says Davis genuinely cares about local causes.

"She is a lucky find as far as a board member goes," McKenzie said. "She goes above and beyond. ... I really and truly don't know how she juggles everything - and she does it in such a graceful manner."

McKenzie said that Davis was last year's prom queen at the organization's

Second-Chance Prom in November, an honor she earned by collecting the most donations.

"She's just one of those people who, on a personal level, I just feel blessed to know," McKenzie said, "and I think she makes you a better person just through association."

The praise was echoed by local Salvation Army executive director Chris Kelley. He said Davis has been a valuable asset to the organization, ringing bells at Christmastime, participating in the Joy program and working as a mentor for the Jobs for Life program, a biblically-based employment program helping out-of-work locals and students prepare for the labor force.

"She's not afraid to get her hands dirty," he said.

Davis said she always has been this way - at least since middle school, she says, when she started the Kids Jam club and worked as a youth health educator. The school paid her to talk to other students about drugs, pregnancy and other health-related issues. It was at that time she wrote a play - she doesn't remember the name - that Temple Theatre presented. Davis directed and choreographed the entire production, which told the story of a young high school girl whose life turned upside down after she became pregnant and had to drop out of school.

Yet later, while in high school, Davis herself became pregnant. She didn't drop out though, but renewed her focus - becoming yearbook editor and president of the Students Against Drunk Driving club. After giving birth to her son, Devonte, she spent two years at Central Carolina Community College and earned seven degrees: history, English, psychology, political science, art, science and - "Gosh, I don't remember the last one," Davis said.

With degrees in hand, Davis went on to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After three years, she came out with a bachelor's degree in English and minors in history and anthropology.

"She has worked so hard to get where she is today," said United Way of Lee County executive director Jan Hayes. She added, "She is such a great role model for young girls. We are all very proud of her."

Davis was also the first-ever person to graduate from all three Lee County leadership classes: the county's Learning Lee program, the Sanford Area Leadership Class and the city of Sanford's Citizens Academy.

Bob Joyce, Sanford Area Growth Alliance Economic Development executive director, said he was impressed with Davis' drive while in his leadership class.

"She was so inquisitive," said Joyce, who has known Davis since she was in high school. "You could tell by her integrity and her enthusiasm that she would take the course to heart."

Joyce added that the class often produces political leaders - something that is a goal of Davis' as well. She said that when she was taking the city's leadership class, she met Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and told him that she would one day have his job.

"I'll teach you everything I know," Davis said the mayor replied.

And while Davis said she is serious about someday running for mayor, her current focus remains on helping the community she loves and giving back to those who helped her when she needed it. She said her own kids, Devonte, now 17, and Dayonna, now 12, were enrolled in the Head Start program, which provided free pre-schooling. It's the motivation to give back that keeps her going - a value she has instilled in her kids.

But more than anything else, it is working with teenagers that Davis calls her passion. It's to that end that she spends so much time with youth sports, Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girl's club.

"As a child, you have all these people looking out for you," Davis said. "But as a teen, people tend to let go a little bit, and I think they need someone to be there for them. They are the ones I fear for. They very easily can make the wrong choice, and it can be a make-it-or-break-it decision."

Davis said because she is diabetic, she has to remember to take the time to care for herself. She ended up in a coma twice, she said, because she skipped meals when she was too busy.

But Davis said her message to the community is to "stop making excuses." She said many of her projects only require around half an hour once a week.

"It doesn't take hours of your day to help out, to give back, to do something," she said.