Gwendolynn Malone, Student Services Coordinator
When Lemuel Davis starting talking to his life coach about his future, he never imaged how bumpy the road was going to be. Finishing high school, Davis felt a little lost with his life. Like most young adults, Davis was not sure what to do with his future. After talking to his life coach further, she offered some tough-love advice. She said, “Lemuel, its either boots or books. You need to pick one, and start building your life”.
Heading those words, Davis started looking into different schools and trying to find the thing that fit him best. After talking to his aunt, who was a superintendent at BAE Systems Ship Repair, Inc. for welding, he thought about going into welding himself. He called Tidewater Tech and got some more information about the school. After coming and completing a tour of the campus, meeting the instructors, and talking with the Student Services department, Davis was completely sold.
He started coming to school and soon found out that he was a natural at welding. Lemuel would come to school extremely excited and eager to learn; however, his instructors did not meet him with the same excitement. They noticed that he was very good at welding, but they also noticed that he was the youngest person in the class. They started speaking to him about what it is like actually being in the field of welding, and how it can be a little stressful. Conversations in the field can be very tough to get through. The instructors started treating him the same way he would be treated if he was out in the welding field.
This left Davis feeling a little discouraged, but when he started to understand why his instructors were doing this, he greatly appreciated it. The instructors were forcing him to have a stronger backbone. That way he could be more confident in his chosen profession.
As the weeks went past, he discovered that he was the best welder in his class. Unfortunately, this allowed him to grow a bit overconfident. He started thinking that he did not need to come to class, and complete his work. Obviously, this led to a downward spiral. His grades started to drop, his attendance fell, and he started to lose hope. He got to a point where he wanted to stop and drop out of the welding program. He felt drained and guilty for allowing his arrogance to block him. After an instructor, Mr. Sellers, started speaking life back into him, Davis started to feel better about coming to school. Mr. Sellers told him, “You’re not good at welding if you’re not a good student”. Something about that conversation struck with Lemuel and made him want to better himself.
So back to work he went. He started coming back to school and fully utilizing his resources on campus. He started to form a very strong relationship with Campus Executive Director Paula Massey, and Career Service Coordinator Damika Howard-Wayne. Those two staff members helped keep Davis on the right path. Any day that he missed, Howard-Wayne and Massey were texting, calling, and emailing him. The emotional support that the Tidewater Tech faculty and staff demonstrated is what got Lemuel through the rest of his time at the school. After weeks had gone by, Davis was doing very well again in school and he started to find a good balance between his confidence and humility. It was all smooth sailing until graduation, or so he thought.
In the midst of completing his welding training program, Davis got a call from BAE systems, offering him a position as a welder. He was over the moon with excitement, pride and happiness. However, with every high, there can be a very deep low. Soon after receiving the job offer, his mother and Davis ran into serious financial situations. Those situations led to a lot of uncomfortable changes in his life. Just as he started dealing with that, he found his brother dead. His brother was dealing with a lot of depressing thoughts and in the end, committed suicide.
Needless to say, this rocked Davis’s world to the core. He was finally on his mountain top, only to be thrown right back down in the trenches. Davis’s whole world was being turned upside down and inside out. He did not see a way out of his situation, and being honest, school was the very last thing on his mind. That did not stop Lemuel though. He started this walk and he was going to finish it.
Davis definitely leaned more on his family here at Tidewater Tech to help him get through these rough times, but in the end, it came down to his own perseverance. He did not allow adversity to stand in his way of his future. He was completely committed to seeing this all the way through. He came to school every day and allowed his education to be a way of escape from his reality. Davis understood that coming to school was going to be the best way to get him out of the situation that he was in, and he did just that.
Davis graduated in December 2017, with a career and a renewed confidence. He soon discovered that he wanted to start a foundation of his own. He wishes to help other families get through the tragic loss of suicide. He is naming it NFL—Never Feel Lonely. Even through life’s ups and downs, Davis pushed through and did not allow anything to stop him from achieving his dreams. He truly is an inspiration to us all.