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Davon Harris, who has studied in China and hopes to join the Peace Corps, has had an impact on the community during his time at Binghamton University.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Triple major finds time to give back to community
May 17, 2011Tweet
Looking back on his four years in college, Davon Harris is proud of the work he has done to help provide a better future for local and state youth. Among many other involvements, he’s spent the last three years as treasurer of the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program (JUMP Nation).
“We have a weekend where we bring at-risk youth from the inner city up to the University,” the 22-year-old said. “We then pair them up with mentors. Our goal is to decrease the rate of high school dropouts and encourage them to pursue higher education.”
When Harris graduated from a high school in the Bronx he applied to Binghamton through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a University program that offers academic and financial support to students who may not have the opportunity to attend college.
This has led Harris to appreciate the value of giving back to the community. He will graduate this month with a degree in Africana Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACAS), as well as a degree in Human Development from the College of Community and Public Affairs.
Harris said his freshman year was instrumental to his becoming a triple major.
“I always heard that you can learn whatever you wanted in college, so my freshman year I took an array of classes including philosophy, Africana studies and LACAS,” Harris said. “The Africana studies and LACAS classes struck me the most. I always wanted to learn about my history as an African American, so that’s why I became an Africana Studies major. I got into Human Development when I took a couple of classes with Associate Professor Leo Wilton (from the CCPA). His classes overlapped with a lot of LACAS and Africana studies classes.”
Harris’ career goal is to one day become a doctor. He said the classes have helped him keep in touch with his desire to study medicine and aid people. In the meantime, he’s chosen to keep his options open for post-graduation.
“I really want to join the Peace Corps somewhere in South America or the Caribbean so I can apply some of the concepts I have learned in class,” he said. “I have my whole life ahead of me; you can re-invent yourself whenever you like. I may want to go into the Peace Corps, but that won’t stop me from becoming a doctor.”
Harris has taken the open outlook he has on his future and extended it to world travel.
During the winter break, he studied abroad in China. He traveled all along China’s east coast, stopping in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he studied at Shenzhen University.
“I had never been outside the country, so I wanted to make it a big experience,” Harris said. “I figured, why not China!”
The most valuable lessons Harris learned in China taught him what it means to adjust.
For instance, the dorms he stayed in had no heat, which meant he had to wake up each morning to heat up the water to take a hot shower.
“China was great. I had a lot of memorable moments, but we didn’t have it all. I learned not to take what I have here for granted,” he said.
Wilton said Harris “has distinguished himself as a serious young scholar who is committed to working in communities.”
“He reflects the heart and spirit of the Binghamton tradition of academic excellence with a strong commitment to social justice,” Wilton said.
Diane Crews, visiting assistant professor of human development, praised Harris’ “big heart” and emphasized his mentoring work in the Binghamton community.
“Davon gives a lot of himself to help other people and is especially mindful of the positive influence great mentors can have on a person’s life,” she said.
Harris’ community contributions also extend to his other classes.
“For another class, I am part of the Sunshine Lady Foundation,” said Harris, who hopes to start his own non-profit organization someday. “Doris Buffett gives the University $10,000 as one of 15 campuses that gets to participate in the program. We split the money up and donate it to local non-profits.”
Feeling a mix of excitement, reflection and anticipation as Commencement nears, Harris plans to attend three ceremonies: the professional schools and Harpur College Commencement ceremonies and the EOP recognition ceremony.
“One thing I have learned by being in college is that four years can pass by really fast, and I’ve changed a lot within those four years,” he said. “I’ve also learned a lot about life, both good and bad.
“I’m proud of myself and I’m happy to be graduating. I’m an only child so my mother is proud of me, too. I just can’t wait to be an alumnus so that I can give back to the school that gave so much to me.”