Better Know A BRIDGES Staffer: Evaluation Manager Jesse Davidson
Where do you live? Cooper-Young.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? 20.
So, what’s it mean to be the evaluation manager? I collect feedback from students and other stakeholders to make sure our participants are effectively learning what BRIDGES claims they will learn so that we can continue to improve our programming and the student’s experience. I also make sure the student perspective is communicated and considered when making programmatic decisions.
Where’d you go to school? High school in Chattanooga at Boyd-Buchanan; undergraduate at Valdosta State University; masters at the University of Memphis.
When did you start at BRIDGES? September 2012.
What did you do before, and what brought you here? I was the manager of a bed and breakfast near Athens, GA, when my mentor sent out an email to her former students about the job. I noticed that a colleague of mine from grad school, Julie, had sent the original email. Julie and I worked on several projects together during school, so I decided to check into the position and the organization a little more and applied. I fell in love with Memphis during school, and in fact I always told people the only real problem I had with the city is that there were no mountains here, but I could deal with that and crossed my fingers, hoping to get the job.
What’s your favorite part of working at BRIDGES? Getting to hear the stories and perspectives of the students and making sure their opinions and needs are represented at the table. Students are creative and honest, so it’s nice to hear their perspective on things. It’s always amazing to read comments from students that indicate they realize they do have power and they can use their knowledge and power to make their community better or different!
What’s your personality type, and how does it help you contribute to the team? I’m an INTP on the Myers-Briggs, so I’m pretty straightforward and will point things out that others may not be willing to say and/or hear. So sometimes it’s helpful, I guess, if I’m willing to point things out that need to be addressed.
What one thing about Memphis would you never want to change? The people. The people who live in Memphis make it what it is. Someone is always creating something new, doing something interesting. There have been so many new additions to our city, even in the short few years I have been back. They finally did something with the Sears Building, there are four breweries now, the Playhouse got a new home, someone invented Muddy’s, etc. All of these things are happening because there are people who love our city enough and have enough drive to think of fun, innovative things to enhance what was already here!
When friends from out of town come to visit, where do you take them? Basically, I take them to all places food and drink. I will always take an out-of-towner to Wiseacre! It depends on what they’re in the mood for to eat (other than BBQ, which would be Central) but I usually lobby for Second Line and Evelyn and Olive. I usually recommend a museum (Stax or Rock and Soul). Grizz games, any local festivals, if they’re happening, and Overton Park.
#HumbleBrag… What hobbies and talents do you keep on the DL? I started crocheting on Monday of this week, I’m an amazing whistler, and I previously rode horses regularly.
Which talent would you most like to have? Being able to play the drums.
What’s something you know you do differently than most people? I look at magazines from back to front. And when I was a kid I would order “warm chocolate” instead of “hot chocolate.” Only at Sonic, though.
What’s your go-to karaoke anthem? Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’.
What’s in your fridge? Ginger ale and cheese. Other than that, my husband does all of the shopping.
What are you reading? There’s This River: Grand Canyon Boatman Stories edited by Christa Sadler.
Who are your heroes of fiction? Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Which living person do you most admire? The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Just,” and, “So what I’m really asking is…” and, “Dude, this is not on topic, but…”
What do you feel people take for granted the most? Time. Some people seem to think there’s an abundance of it…There’s not!
What’s your personal motto? Take initiative and get the work done.
What other nonprofits or causes are close to your heart? The National Parks Service, National Outdoor Leadership School, Project Safe and Planned Parenthood.
If you could help the community at large better understand one thing about BRIDGES and Bridge Builders, what would that be? We are not a program for a certain type of student; we are a program for all youth. People will often say things like, “Don’t you need a certain GPA?” or, “That’s a program for inner-city kids.” Bridge Builders is for everyone! We don’t care what your GPA is (though we do hope of course that students give their all to their education), we don’t care where they live, who they know or don’t know, how much money they have, etc. The beauty of Bridge Builders is that students are able to learn from and about other all kinds of other young people.
What one memory or personal experience from working here illustrates the power of the Bridge Builders mission and work? There’ve been many experiences that have impacted me in my time at BRIDGES, but one that stands out is when the Shelby County School Board finally passed the policy for a Student Congress that our CHANGE students and countless other youth and adult allies had worked on for almost three years. The students spoke at School Board meetings previously, met with several school officials, and worked with and consulted thousands of other youth throughout the city. The night of the event, several Bridge Builders and staff came to show their support with their encouraging words and signs. The students did their final pitch and waited to hear the school board members’ yays or nays. When the final two board members voted, unanimously passing the policy, I remember holding back tears because I was so proud and amazed by all of the work that the students put in to this policy. They were showing other young people that youth do have a voice and that they can make change in their schools and community.