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Scott Alan Davis


Young Social Entrepreneur Society

27895 East Grand Boulevard
Detroit, Michigan 48211
Scott Alan Davis left his work in the private sector 15 years ago to do what he loves: serve youth and serve community. As the Vanguard Community Development Corporation’s executive director, Davis strives to help kids reach their full potential and then watches them learn to serve others as they step confidently into adulthood.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Vanguard CDC Executive Director Scott Alan Davis: It means being an example. Leading with integrity, with honesty, and with the work I do. Being transparent and intentional about the time I spend on getting the outcomes the community wants to see. 
It is important for people that I lead to know that work is my motivating factor. I don’t do it for ego. I don’t do it for recognition. I do this work to see a positive outcome. Being a leader is about being a coach, too. It is about asking myself how I can help
Through experience, I’ve discovered that when you can get a young person to connect their opportunities and their talents, it can catapult them instantly toward prosperity and sustainable employment.
people become successful because I’m very focused on that. As humans, we generally do not put a lot of effort into making people successful. They make a mistake and we write them off.
I acknowledge the fact that perfection doesn’t exist; you’re going to make mistakes. Maybe you’ll say something that you didn’t mean to say, do something you did not want to do. I try to show people how their mistakes can become tools and how to take those imperfections and turn them into stepping stones toward success.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that they have an opportunity to connect to the prosperity pathway by utilizing their God-given talents and passions.
For example, I know that mathematical ability is directly related to music. So when I see a musical kid, I know that parents, mentors, and educators should help that that child connect the two, to take a passion further by tapping into mathematical talents -- talents that they may not know they had. This is a big part of youth work. Through experience, I’ve discovered that when you can get a young person to connect their opportunities and their talents, it can catapult them instantly toward prosperity and sustainable employment.    
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
One thing that could be done is an assessment of all of the funds that are already allocated to the social sector and see where there are gaps in funds so an alignment of resources and services could be done to minimize overlap.
Let’s say we’re talking about youth services. We need to ask agencies that provide youth services where the funding comes from. If your agency has a tutoring program or a mentoring program, where does the money for that program come from?
When you are committed to the neighborhood, you don’t want to leave; you want to see the area grow, change and prosper.
Assessments could come from any entity, but approaching the funders is a good way to start. If one funder contacts another funder, they can work together. They can lobby and contact legislators. Funders typically want to leverage their dollars with other available funds, so they are willing to do this.
The department of agriculture is a good example: who would think to go to the department of agriculture for funding? But they have money for healthy food programs for youth that many people do not know about. We have a lot of federal money that goes unspent.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know I am making progress when I start to see behavior changes in the people we serve: youth and parents. Like picking up litter when they see it on the ground, or speaking to neighbors when they see one another.
Those trivial examples are just a couple of the ways that we know the work we are doing affects people. Another one is our literacy program. Sometimes people just do not want to want to read because they have low literacy skills and they take the attitude “If I can’t read now, I’m not going to learn.” It is a typical problem. In areas where you are not skilled, you just don’t do it, because it is a reminder of flaws, and nobody wants that.
What we do in our literacy program is find out what each individual likes to do, and we start by giving them little examples. We give them an article to read about cars, if that is where their interest lies; it may take them an hour to read a five-minute article, but they will read it. That’s progress.
What are you most proud of?
I am the most proud of the fact that youth that we have had in our programs have a commitment to the neighborhood and the work and a passion to make a difference in the community. When you are committed to the neighborhood, you don’t want to leave; you want to see the area grow, change and prosper.
I’m proud that our youth take the skills they learn here, like self-esteem, self-worth, responsibility and confidence, because confidence isn’t often looked at as a skill, and pay it forward. They go into the world with an eagerness to grow themselves. They vote, they become responsible citizens, and they volunteer. That really seeds back into the community and the community becomes richer because of it. You reap the harvest of what you sow. I am very proud of our youth.
What originally drew you to your current profession?
Previously, I worked in retail, but for the past 15 years, I have worked in the social sector. Retail was work, but the community development and community service industry is my career. It is so much more meaningful to me.
I love to help people and I love to serve them. I also love to see them learn to serve others. Some people just inherently serve, and they don’t do it for recognition. They just simply do it. But I believe that we have to serve some people to get them to want to serve others -- to give back through volunteerism opportunities in churches, in schools, in community organizations. There are so many outlets to serve, and these opportunities open up every day in everyone’s life.
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