Kurt Davis retires after 50 years of inspiring students
When Kurt Davis woke up from knee surgery in 2014, he was greeted by three former students, all whom he had helped guide into their health careers.
These students, along with thousands of other students and families that have passed through schools across Oregon know the impact Davis has made on their futures. His work in career advising, teaching and coaching have helped thousands of kids discover their passions and make their goals possible.
One of those students is Ana Badillo-Juarez, who was the first in her family to graduate both high school and college. "I would not have been able to do it without him," said Badillo-Juarez. "He has never stopped caring for and supporting me. He continues to motivate and inspire me now that I'm a teacher"
Bedillo-Juarez knew in high school she wanted to be a teacher but didn't know the path to get there. Davis put her on the path to achieve that goal.
"He signed me up for a trip to Eastern Oregon University, and made me realize it was possible," said Badillo-Juarez. "He filled out the application with me and supported me even through college. He has done so much not just for me, but for my brother, for the whole community. He wants kids dreams to become a reality and does anything to make it happen."
Badillo-Juarez is now in her third year of teaching at Rocky Heights Elementary School in Hermiston, OR.
Kurt Davis began teaching health and coaching after he graduated from Western Oregon University in 1972. He started his career in Astoria, then went on to North Marion High School, Grant High School and Redmond High School before he moved to Culver High School.
Davis started at Culver High School after "retiring" from teaching and began working part time as a football coach and coordinator of the school's health occupation program.
The program, his brainchild, took interested high school students to explore health occupations, by touring local hospitals and practices. St. Charles Medical reached out to partner on the program, and paid his salary, since the school didn't have the budget. His program has seen over 2,500 students go through it, and 75% of those now have careers in healthcare.
His impact in the field of rural health was recognized in 2019, when he was named the Oregon Rural Health Hero of the Year. The health occupations program at Culver High has inspired countless doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, and more to pursue the field.
In 2010, Culver School District superintendent Stefanie Garber asked Davis if he could expand the program to all professions, and his position as school to career coordinator was born.
Davis has worked with every senior at Culver High since then, pushing them to pursue secondary education. When he started, about 10% of graduating seniors were pursuing secondary education, now, that's closer to 60%. Aside from traditional four-year universities, Davis also helps students pursue further education at community colleges, trade schools and in the Job Corps.
One of the ways Davis does this is by taking students to see colleges across the state. He travels to 15-20 colleges and universities each year, taking students with him. Central Oregon Seed, Inc. helps to fund these student trips, making them more accessible to all students. Often, Davis says, a tour of a campus is the push it takes to get kids motivated.
"I get a thrill seeing that light bulb turn on for students," says Davis. "All of the sudden they see that it's possible."
Davis goes beyond the traditional career counselor. He supports students in their journey to graduation. He is constantly available to students on the phone, and supports not only them, but their families. He's helped parents apply for further schooling, and even had a student live with him so she could complete high school in Culver.
"He has literally changed the trajectory of student lives. Whatever it took, he would do it for their success," said superintendent Stefanie Garber. "He has his phone on 24/7 and takes middle-of-the-night meltdown phone calls and will support the graduate in their next step. Sometimes, it would mean hopping in the car the next day and driving to meet them, even if it meant hours of driving."
Davis's commitment to supporting student success is unwavering. He has put in many more hours than his part-time job entails and takes many after-hours phone calls and texts from students needing support. He says it's all worth it, to see the kids succeed.
After 50 years of teaching, coaching and inspiring students, Davis has decided to retire.
"I'm 72 now, and I'm ready to have some more free time," said Davis. He plans to visit his children, both teachers, and see his grandchildren playing sports.
Garber says he will be a greatly missed member of the school community, "I hope he still comes around every now and then to share his talents and wisdom with the person who will take his place."
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