Rev. James Davis Receives the Governor and Mrs. Richard W Riley Award For Excellence in Dropout Prevention


Clemson, S.C. (February 16, 2016) – Rev. James F. Davis of Ware Shoals, South Carolina, is the 2016 recipient of the Governor and Mrs. Richard W. Riley Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention. Each year, at the At-Risk Youth National FORUM in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University presents the Riley Award to a South Carolinian who has made a significant contribution to improving high school graduation rates. The award is given in honor of Governor and Mrs. Richard W. Riley because of their many years of service and contributions to the school success of South Carolina’s youth. As Governor and First Lady of South Carolina, the Rileys led the state through an era of successful school improvement. Governor Riley later served as Secretary of Education in the Clinton and was instrumental in founding the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.

The Riley Award was presented to Rev. James Davis because of his aggressive and creative leadership of dropout prevention initiatives in the Ware Shoals community. Rev. Davis currently serves as the pastor of Dunn Creek Baptist Church in Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Rev. Davis also works as a school bus driver and substitute teacher for Ware Shoals School District 51. Rev. Davis was born in Dillon, South Carolina, and graduated from Butler High School in Hartsville, South Carolina. He is a 1977 graduate of South Carolina State University. After college, Rev. Davis served as Lieutenant in the United States Army for 11 years. Following his military service, Rev. Davis worked as an addictions counselor for the Greenville County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for 11 years.

While Rev. Davis’ work as a minister, counselor and community servant has always provided valuable assistance to at-risk youth, he became aggressively involved in dropout prevention after attending a district-wide meeting of educators and community leaders on the issue in 2013. Rev. Davis made school success and high school graduation the theme his church’s youth ministry. He invited school and community leaders to church youth events to encourage school success. He made parents, grandparents and family support figures in his church aware of the dropout problem and taught them strategies for supporting their children to succeed in school and to graduate. Under the leadership of Rev. Davis, Dunn Creek Baptist Church has hosted numerous youth events that communicate the stay-in-school message and support the school success of children in the Ware Shoals community.

Rev. Davis creatively spreads the message of school success beyond his ministry at Dunn Creek Baptist Church. He leads a group of church and community members who regularly attend local school board meetings and offer support and assistance to school system leadership to improve graduation rates. As a school bus driver, Rev. Davis drives “Bus #8” and all his young passengers know and share the bus motto, “You ride Bus Eight, be Good, be Great and you will graduate!!!” A student said of Rev. Davis, “I don’t know where my life would be headed without his example and guidance.” The graduation rate of Ware Shoals School District 51 is showing significant improvement as a result of the schools and community working together. Rev. James Davis, as a leader in the faith community, has guided adults to assist students in school success and to support the school system’s graduation rate improvement efforts. In Ware Shoals, the community sends a loud message of school success and expectation of graduation to its children. That message is in large part due to the dedication and creativity of Rev. James F. Davis.

Sandy Addis, Director of The National Dropout Prevention Center, said, “Rev. Davis shows us how the faith community can be mobilized to support student success and high school graduation. We know that schools alone can’t solve the dropout problem. The whole community must communicate high expectations to our youth. Determined and creative community members like Rev. Davis are critical in this effort. Every community needs a James Davis to support higher graduation outcomes for students.”

“Rev. Davis is an ideal choice for the Gov. and Mrs. Richard W. Riley Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention,” said George J. Petersen, founding dean of Clemson’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education. “His work illustrates the importance of schools and communities working together to improve life outcomes for students, and we are pleased to honor his work, which is consistent with the School of Education’s mission to meet and address the needs of underserved communities and schools.”

About the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N)

Established in 1986 with a mission to reduce dropout rates, the NDPC/N shares solutions for student success and dropout prevention through its clearinghouse function, active research and evaluation projects, publications, and a variety of professional development activities and conferences. The organization’s website——is the nation’s leading resource in providing effective, research-based solutions to engaging students and reducing dropout. The NDPC/N is housed in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.


Rev. James F. Davis, of Ware Shoals, SC, accepts the National Dropout Prevention Center’s 2016 Governor and Mrs. Richard W. Riley Award of Excellence in Dropout Prevention from Center Director Dr. Sandy Addis. (Pictured L to R) Dr. Sandy Addis; Rev. and Mrs. James F. Davis; Rev. Davis’ sister; and Dr. Fay Sprouse, Superintendent, Ware Shoals School District 51.
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