03/25/08 — Communities in Schools program gets new leader

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Communities in Schools program gets new leader

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 25, 2008 1:50 PM

Eleven years ago Sudie Davis was part of a task force responsible for introducing Communities in Schools to Wayne County.

Serving as board chairman, she stepped in to keep it afloat when the first director hired left.

"We were broke so I came in for a year as a volunteer and worked full-time to get us back on track," she recalls.

She has served as executive director ever since.

Communities in Schools encompasses an array of youth initiatives, including Teen Court, Teen Health Corps, Great Leaps Supplemental Reading Program, Tutors and Mentors, an annual school supply drive, as well as the addition of the Lenoir County Teen Court.

In addition to overseeing the programs, Mrs. Davis' duties have spanned administrative, financial, supervision, grant writing and public relations.

The role has allowed her to cross paths with a number of agencies and organizations, enlisting help serving the county's young people. These have included the public school system and its school-based health centers, known as WISH, WATCH and the Health Department. She also handled the role of director for the county's Junior Leadership program.

In December, she announced her plans to retire. The Communities in Schools' board began advertising for her replacement.

Earlier this month, Jane Jeffreys was hired to take the reins. Mrs. Davis will remain at least through the end of March to ease the transition.

Ms. Jeffreys, originally from Dunn, has lived in Wayne County since 1995. Prior to her new job, she worked as food and beverage manager on base.

Since the birth of her twin girls, Jane Alexander and Anne Graysen, six years ago, her primary role has been a stay-at-home mom. As a mother, she said, the Communities in Schools job intrigued her.

"Who wouldn't want to do it?" she asked. "Anybody that has an interest in youth and developing our youth in a better way would be interested in this job."

As she passes the mantle to her successor, Mrs. Davis said she is confident it will be a comfortable fit.

"Communities in Schools promotes parental involvement," she said. "That's what it's about is helping children."

On a professional level, the job has provided many rewards, Mrs. Davis said.

"Through the experience I have grown tremendously as an individual," she says. "My computer skills are far superior to what they would have been, (and) I never dreamed that my writing skills would allow me to write grants."

But it's also been about so much more -- the relationships developed both professionally and with the ones she enjoyed serving most, the children.

"I think I'm really proud of what's happened with the organization," Mrs. Davis said. "Meeting kids who will be our future, working with the wonderful people who serve on our board of directors, these are things that I will carry with me the rest of my life."

Her family is ready for her to retire, she says with a laugh. And while it is a bittersweet departure, she admits it is with a sense of accomplishment.

"There's nothing greater for me than a day that a kid that we worked with, whether in Teen Court or Junior Leadership, and they'll recognize or remember me," she said. "One of our first Teen Court defendants that we worked with asked that he be invited to the (recent farewell) reception.

"That's what it's all about -- those relationships."

Ms. Jeffreys is pleased to be following in such capable footsteps.

"I'm going to try to keep everything just as smooth as she had them so I can focus on what I can bring to the table," she said. "I'm trying to take it all in."

It's helpful to step into a role where things are "running like a well-tuned engine," she said. The only pressing need at the outset is to find a new Teen Court coordinator. Beyond that, she'll work to make the job her own.

"She already is looking at a signature event, a fundraiser," Mrs. Davis said. "I would love to see Jane build on what we have already done. ... (And) I have already told her, 'I'm not leaving the community. If you need me, I will be here.'"

Ms. Jeffreys already has previous experience coordinating fundraisers, decorating for events.

"I'm someone who cannot live without a project," she said. "I think this is going to be a really good opportunity not only to help the kids but for myself."