By Jim Gehman
Rashied Davis and his wife, Dianna, began to pay back to the Chicago community while he was still playing wide receiver for the Bears. “I felt like I have a responsibility to myself and to society to give back all the wisdom and the blessings that I’ve gotten in my life to people who are less fortunate,” Davis said.
In 2010, they founded Saturday Place, an academic enrichment program for 3rd and 4th grade Chicago public school students who are performing at least one year below grade level and live in under-resourced communities. Every Saturday during the school year, students receive tutoring and participate in activities that provide support in reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.
“It was a new idea, a new concept at the time,” Davis said. “Because we were going to be providing a free service, the principals were onboard. I’m not quite sure what the parents’ ideas were or feelings were about it at first. They just felt like well, if someone’s going to give my kid extra help, we’ll get them there.
“One principal in particular, Barton Dassinger, (César Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy Center) is one of the big reasons that Saturday Place is still going and even got going as well as it did. Because he was all in for helping his children and he’s been amazing ever since.”
Each Saturday, 45 students from César Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy Center and Burroughs Elementary School are bussed to the University of Illinois at Chicago, which provides classrooms.
“When we started Saturday Place, I was a new dad and didn’t know anything about what schooling and all that stuff was going to be like,” Davis said. “And now that I have my own son and daughter, Eli and Alanna, I realize how important and how expensive it is to get your kids extra help when they need it. Whether it be a tutor or a learning center or whatever it is, it’s expensive.”
The expense that it takes to operate Saturday Place is why Davis is appreciative of the financial assistance received from PAF and others.
“All the support we get means everything. Without it, we couldn’t do what we do,” Davis said. “We couldn’t perform. We couldn’t afford our program. I don’t get paid. None of the board members get paid. We only pay our teachers and our program director as well as our executive director.
“We’re a small organization, a 501 (c)(3), and we work our tails off to try and do as much as we can with what we’re given. So, any support that we get from anybody is well appreciated and it’s put to great use. We don’t waste a dime.”
And the feeling Davis has when he witnesses the students succeed…
“It’s amazing. I feel blessed to have been able to think of an idea and then follow it through with a concept that works, that helps children less fortunate than my own, less fortunate than many others, whose parents can’t afford the extra help they need. It feels good to see them go on to have great academic success in school.”