Commencement 2021: URI graduate intent on making an impact

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 28, 2021 – Halah Davis fell in love with the University of Rhode Island. The high school athletic standout and star tennis recruit had visited other universities but the size and beauty of URI’s Kingston Campus won her over. Four years later, as she prepares to graduate, she has no regrets.

Davis grew up in Oceanport, New Jersey – the daughter of a lawyer and an educator, who were also athletes. Davis started playing tennis at age 8 and began playing competitively when she was 12. Growing up she played multiple sports, including soccer, softball, basketball and golf – but it was tennis that would bring the Shore Regional High School graduate to URI.

“When I was in high school and the beginning of my college career, I had no idea what I wanted to study,” said Davis. Coming in as the only freshman to the tennis team, Davis leaned on her teammates who took her in and showed her the ropes. But academically she had to find her own way.

She declared a psychology major during her sophomore year but a class in Lifespan Development, which explores the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional growth and development of young children within the family and varied cultural settings, piqued her interest. Talking with a classmate majoring in Human Development and Family Science about early intervention programs for young children somehow struck her.

Halah Davis in Tanzania
Halah Davis (3rd from left) volunteering in Tanzania prior to her junior year at URI.

“It was something I could really see myself doing,” she said. Ultimately, Davis changed her major to Human Development and Family Science with a psychology minor.

She also took advantage of an opportunity to volunteer abroad – something she had always wanted to do. Davis traveled to Tanzania through GIVE Volunteers during the summer of 2019. Traveling on her own was a big step for Davis.

“I gained a lot of confidence on that trip,” she said. While there, she helped to teach English to local adults and worked to rebuild a school. “I feel like I really found myself. I always knew I wanted to do something that involved helping people, which was part of the reason I wanted to go. To be able to see the change I was able to help make – and that one person can make – made a real impact on me.”

Halah Davis came to URI to play tennis.
Halah Davis came to URI to play tennis.

Upon returning to URI, Davis’ practicum placements, including at URI’s Child Development Center, allowed her to gain experience working with children of different ages. This past fall she was able to intern at Pathways Strategic Teaching Center in Coventry, which serves children with autism and other developmental disabilities – something she has been giving a lot of thought to doing.

“I really enjoyed my internship. I was getting to work with the population that I wanted to. The teaching was different because it was one-on-one so you work closely with your student and get to know them personally, working with them at their own pace,” said Davis. “It wasn’t easy by any means, but I think working closely with your students and seeing the impact you can have is definitely worth it.”

While Davis is unsure of what her next step is after graduation, Pathways has invited her to return. With one year of eligibility left to play tennis due to COVID-19, she plans to visit her family back in New Jersey before making any decisions.

She does know that she wants to work with children with developmental disabilities – either in a school or home setting.

While COVID-19 changed her expectations of what her senior year would be, Davis is accepting of the circumstances and is positive about the future.

“As much as this past year has been difficult and adjusting to online learning was hard – part of it was also good for me personally,” said Davis. “Especially that early quarantine period at home after being sent home last March. It allowed me to spend time with my family and also work on myself a lot. So, I feel like some good came out of it too.”

In summing up her experience at URI, taking into account COVID-19, she added, “It’s definitely been crazy, but I enjoyed it a lot. I made a lot of friends that I will keep in touch with. I learned a lot. There were a lot of ups and downs, but I definitely wouldn’t change my decision at all.”