Feature Article

Dedicated Purdue Calumet recruiter wears many hats


Ray Davis
Ray Davis

When Ray Davis was involved as a student in the Upward Bound program at Horace Mann High School in Gary, he had no idea he would one day be serving as its recruiter. “This program introduced me to life outside of Gary, and the options for education,” he said. “I became a first generation college graduate.”

The Upward Bound Program gives area students the opportunity to gain ‘”hands-on” college experience while still in high school.

Started in 1966, the continuous four-year program – beginning in ninth grade – consists of a six-week non-residential orientation program, an eight-week non-residential component, and a six-week summer residential program at Purdue University West Lafayette. The latter includes regular college classes. Approximately 30 students from area high schools – Hammond, East Chicago, Gary and Whiting – attend each summer and they stay in campus dorms.

Ray Davis speaking
Ray Davis speaking

Davis has been with the program since 2002. “I’ve always had a passion for young people,” he said. “My focus is helping them feel empowered to make good choices.”

Upward Bound comes under the umbrella of Purdue Calumet’s TRIO, which also includes the Educational Talent Search and Student Support Services. TRIO is a set of federally funded college opportunity programs that support and motivate students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree.

Davis graduated from Purdue University West Lafayette in 1989, earning a degree in Retail Management. He enjoyed working in this field, but after 14 years decided he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three children in Gary than out on the road traveling.

Davis first began working with TRIO programs part time in 2002. Currently he serves as Recruiter/Tutor coordinator for Purdue Calumet’s Upward Bound program.

As a former participant in the Upward Bound program, Davis realizes the importance of reaching students who may not see college as an option after high school graduation.

He was his family’s first college graduate and knew that the lessons he learned through the Upward Bound program would prove very valuable to him later in life.

They definitely have. Davis has become a well-rounded individual, both on and off campus.

When away from work duties at Purdue Calumet, he wears the hat of devoted family man with his wife Tonya and their three children – twins Raquel and Raymond, 22, and son Ryan, 7; serves as pastor at the New Day Community Church in Merrillville; and is heavily involved in professional affiliations and community service.

The latter includes sitting on the board of the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, panel member of the Lake Area United Way Allocations, and committee member of the YJean Chambers Theater Programming Committee at Purdue Calumet, among others.

If he’s gained anything from all the busy parts of his life, Davis says that seeing things optimistically can go far in determining many situations. “I’ve learned that a few dedicated people can make a huge difference.”

He adds that he believes in a ‘life of purpose’.

“I bring that standard into my everyday life. It’s the recipe for successful living.”