Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:32 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

For Adijo Davis, learning comes by giving everything a try

Kachemak Color

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Editor's note: "Kachemak Color" features residents who make the communities of the southern Kenai Peninsula interesting. If you know of someone who you think would make a good story, call the editor at 235-7767.


Photo provided

AdiJo Davis, second from left, is the recipient of Friends of the Homer Library's Youth! Learner Award. With AdiJo are her parents, Julie and David "Berkly" Davis, and her grandmother, Jo Davis.

As the first recipient of the Friends of the Homer Library's Youth! Learner Award, AdiJo Davis —known as Adi to family and friends — fits the bill.

"This award goes to a youth in our community who demonstrates learning as a passion, shares that knowledge with others and exhibits creativity," spokesperson Carey Restino wrote in the announcement that Davis was selected.

Roberta Copeland Paulino nominated Davis for her "desire to learn new things." Davis is active in Girl Scouts, is on a synchronized swim team and is an award-winning member of Homer High School's Drama, Debate and Forensics team. As Alaska's youth representative at the Ninth World Wilderness Congress in Mexico in 2009, Davis participated in a question and answer session with Jane Goodall, a British anthropologist known for her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania. As a member of a group that calls itself EcoLogical, Davis played a role in reducing waste locally and won the President's Environmental Youth Award for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 10, an honor for which she and other EcoLogical team members were recognized by President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Davis also was on a Homer teen team for TEDx, Technology Entertainment and Design, a program designed to offer stimulating dialogue worldwide.

Besides all that, "she's very personable, which is the best part," said Copeland, co-leader of Davis' Girl Scout troop.

Ask Adi where she got her love of learning and the home-schooled teenager is quick to respond.

"Definitely my parents and my grandmother instilled that in me," she said of the influence of dad and mom, David "Berkly" and Julie Davis, and grandmother, Jo Davis. "From a very early age, I have a lot of memories of just sitting on Grandmother's lap and she'd read me book after book after book. Dad and I would go on beach walks and I'd point at something and he'd explain its origin, its scientific name. Since I'm a home-schooled student, my parents were my teachers and Grandmother taught me math during my elementary years."

IDEA was the home-school program of choice for Aid's elementary education, followed by Homer Middle School and, since ninth grade, she has been a home-school student of Connections. The foundation for Adi's learning was laid long before that, however.

"When we met back in 1976, we decided if we ever had children we'd home school, not realizing she wouldn't be born until 1995," said Julie Davis of the plan she and Berkly crafted. "I remember him saying over and over again, 'What if she doesn't love books? What if she doesn't love learning?' Our home is literally floor to ceiling bookshelves, full of books."

During her pregnancy, Julie, a fan of nonfiction, was surprised to find she craved science fiction fantasy.

"I'd never read science fiction fantasy in my life until I got pregnant with Adi and read my husband's entire collection of science fiction magazines," Julie said laughing. "Since she was born, I've never read another."

Small wonder, then, that Adi has born with a keen interest in that genre.

"She's the one that wanted to have it read to her," said Julie.

As an employee for First Student, the local school bus provider, Berkly found his schedule a good match for homeschooling his daughter.

"I had from 9:30 a.m. to 2 in the afternoon for most of her younger school years," he said. "We'd do beach walks just about every day and we were in the library constantly."

In addition to teaching Adi math, Jo Davis read to her granddaughter from the time Adi was an infant. They've read every book in the Harry Potter series, with Jo doing all the reading until the third book of the series was published and Adi's reading skill allowed her to share in the reading.

Dinnertime debates have developed Adi's interest in all sides of an issue. That curiosity has served her well on the Homer High DDF team, where topics have ranged from the death penalty to mandatory vaccinations to trying juveniles as adults for violent crimes.

"Each year she has ventured more and more out of her comfort zone to find new events that will expand her horizons," said DDF Coach Amy Chistianson. "She enjoys teaching other students about new viewpoints, as well as simply learning for her own edification about the different issues that she experiences as part of the debates."

Kyra Wagoner, who helps coach the team, agreed.

"She loves the challenge, likes to see how you can look at stuff differently. That's what she gets a kick out of," said Wagoner. "She's always going to be out there, looking for something new."

Among all the influences on her life, Adi points to Brenda Dolma as her "lifelong mentor." Dolma leads Adi's scout troop, coaches the synchronized swim team, has helped instill Adi's love of science and the outdoors and has known Adi since Adi was born.

"Lifelong learner is a good indicator of Adi. If she doesn't know a skill, she'll research it until she figures it out," said Brenda.

"And she's able to listen to others. If someone else has a contribution that gets to the final result, she's not attached to being the one that knows it all. She's open to hearing others' input so the end result happens."

For Adi, that's part of what learning is all about.

"You just have to try everything," she said.

"Give everything a shot. If you enjoy it, continue with it. If you don't, you've learned you don't like it."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com