Ro White lives in one of Shreveport’s nicest upscale neighborhoods; Phyellisha Davis in a low-income neighborhood where shootings are not uncommon.
Ro worked in education for 30 years; Phyellisha dropped out of school.
Ro was raised to believe she could succeed in life; Phyellisha was often told she would never succeed in anything.
And yet Phyellisha is succeeding – thanks in large part, she says, to the influence of Community Renewal and the inspiration she gets from friends like Ro White. These two Shreveport women may come from opposite sides of the tracks, but they are a testament to the power genuine friendship can have when the heart is willing.
Community Renewal builds safe and caring communities through healthy, mutually enhancing relationships – like the one Ro and Phyellisha have formed.
“Community Renewal changed my life. Now I care about my community and I’m trying to be a good influence for people who struggled like I struggled. Now I am a caring, loving person,” said Phyellisha, who also now serves the Cedar Grove area as neighborhood ambassador for Community Renewal.
Ro is quick to point out that Community Renewal doesn’t only change lives in the low-income areas. People who live in large homes can also have emptiness on the inside. “I am changed for the better just as much as our students are changed for the better,” she said.
Ro and Phyellisha met at the Adult Renewal Academy, where students can earn their high school equivalency diploma. Ro was serving as a volunteer teacher. Phyellisha followed her sister there as a student because she wanted to prove the doubters wrong and earn her diploma. She worked hard, with encouragement from Ro and other teachers, and did just that several years ago.
“Before Community Renewal, I was a bad influence on people. I was always having arguments and conflicts. People would tell me I would never amount to anything and would never have any friends – and I believed it. Life was a struggle,” she said.
“Going to the ARA got my life back together. I started learning and that made me feel like a better person.”
The caring atmosphere of the ARA fosters friendships. Ro and Phyellisha have done things together outside the classroom and been to each other’s homes. Today they are no longer in the classroom together, but are co-workers for Community Renewal. Phyellisha works in the office two days a week as receptionist; Ro heads up the Renewal Team and still works with the ARA. They often sit next to each other at the Monday morning staff gathering.
“We are all a lot more alike than we are different. And we are a much stronger community when we realize that,” Ro said. “The more connections we have, the happier and healthier our community will be.”