FORT LAUDERDALE — Kesha Davis may be Broward County’s next trailblazer.
Although her life seems exhausting as she juggles school and a career, the Lauderhill resident loves nothing more than caring for her 12 year-old son, who lives with his godmother in Pensacola while Davis pursues academia in New York.
Davis is committed to mastering all her responsibilities.
She is one of the 40 carefully selected applicants who were accepted into the National Urban Fellows (NUF) Class of 2010. The 14-month, full-time intensive curriculum consists of two semesters at City University of New York’s Bernard M. Baruch College, School of Public Affairs, followed by a nine-month internship with senior-level administration at a partnering government agency or nonprofit organization.
Upon completion, the Fellows will receive a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree.
“That’s leadership exposure at the highest level,” said Miguel Garcia Jr., NUF’s program director. “It allows them the opportunity to enmesh into a new paradigm. Many of the Fellows come at this new opportunity with a hunger. Many are achieved, but need the challenge to take on new responsibility.
Everyone sees you as an asset, someone with a fresh perspective.”
The NUF and Broward County government will host a reception on Thursday, March 18 at the Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale to recognize Davis, a 37-year-old mother, student and intern.
NUF candidates are normally required to relocate for their interships. But luckily for Davis, Broward County government and the NUF have a long-standing relationship.
Davis was placed with Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, who has mentored NUF Fellows for several years. Henry said that during the interview process, Davis stood out as “sharp, technologically savvy and had done a lot of research on the office.”
Henry continued: “This is a Fellowship that is jointly funded by the Community Foundation of Broward County. I talked to prospective candidates about how they would approach certain of the Foundation’s projects and she had a really good response.”
Davis has genuine interest in her community, and working in Broward County government has certainly been an eye-opener for her. She said she was impressed by the caliber of expertise, even though there has been corruption recently in the county commission.
In December, for example, former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces sentencing on Friday, March 12.
“It’s a very dedicated group of people who, if nothing else, are accountable for their actions,” said Davis. “There are a few bad apples that have been able to survive, but I honestly believe that those are isolated incidents that do not reflect the entire county commission. They literally provide sensational service.”
Currently halfway through her internship, Davis also described the mentorship as “a combination of textbook methodology and the real world” exposure to the different roles local government plays in the lives of its citizens.
“Being in government now and getting to see firsthand how our county operates and interacts with the 31 different cites is fascinating,” Davis said.
While the Fort Lauderdale native tries to maintain as much sense of normalcy as possible during her internship, she has always been a hard worker.
Her aspiration to become an entrepreneur led her to a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).
During her ten-year corporate tenure at Bosch Automotive Technology, first as a commodity manager and then as a supplier diversity manager, she observed business owners taking risks and succeeding in their ventures. This led Davis to move back to Fort Lauderdale to develop her entrepreneurial dreams. She opened the Book Lover’s Lounge, a bookstore and meeting place in the heart of Lauderdale Lakes.
While the business venture clearly brought her a tremendous amount of accomplishment, Davis said she is content having a public service career. She closed her store before applying for the NUF fellowship, and is planning for a future leadership role.
Davis treats the Fellowship not as a job but as a gift. The full scholarship includes tuition, a $25,000, tax-free stipend, health insurance, a relocation allowance, school-related travel expenses and a book allowance. She said she hopes others will take advantage of the educational and career advancement opportunity.
“I encourage young people to follow their passion and get the best education you can get, because once you get your education, no one can take that from you,” Davis said. “Knowledge is power, and we are all capable of having power via knowledge.”
Mid-career women and men of color are strongly encouraged to apply. The application deadline for the class of 2012 is December 12, 2010. For more information, please contact Miguel Garcia at 212-730-1700; email email@example.com, or visit www.nuf.org.
Photo: Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, left, and National Urban Fellows intern Kesha Davis, right, discuss the cover for a county “Go Green’’ initiative publication.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
The National Urban Fellows is seeking applicants who have U.S. citizenship, a bachelor’s degree, a minimum of five to seven years administrative or managerial employment, and they must meet Baruch College admission requirements.