Return to Headlines

Nationally recognized early childhood expert, Manual grad keynotes 365 breakfast

Dr. Marquita Furness Davis, Manual High School Class of 1985 was the keynote speaker at the Peoria Public Schools Foundation 5th Annual 365 Breakfast. An expert in early childhood education, Davis currently serves as Deputy Director of Early Learning, U.S. Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a multi-state early learning strategy which aims to ensure that all young children have access to high-quality, effective and affordable pre-school. Davis also was executive director of a large anti-poverty community action agency in Birmingham, Alabama; director of finance for the State of Alabama, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs and Pre-K director for the state of Alabama. Following graduation from Manual High School, Davis earned degrees from Northern Illinois University, Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Members of the 365 Annual Giving Program pledge at least $1 per day to support PPS Foundation creative and innovative programs for Peoria Public School students including See It. Be It. primary grade career education and Horizon Program, a mentoring and career exploration program for middle school students.

Dr. Furness-Davis spoke of her experiences at Manual High School where she was a cheerleader and member of the student council. Following high school, she earned degrees from Northern Illinois University, Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

An advocate for public education, she told the audience the education offered at Peoria Public Schools has produced highly successful professionals in a wide variety of fields who have achieved success throughout the world. 

Also recognized at the breakfast were Richwoods High School Hope Shipman who was recently accepted to Harvard University and Chef Jitske Mediema, WCTC Culinary Arts teacher. WCTC Culinary Arts students prepared the breakfast.

The 365 Breakfast gives Foundation president Cindy Morris and her staff the opportunity to tell the story of the work they do engaging individuals, organizations and businesses to work with Peoria Public School students.  PPS Foundation programs include:

  • Classroom, Innovation, Stem and Field Experience Grants. Peoria Public School teachers and staff can apply for annual multiple grant offerings for enhanced experiences in and outside the classroom.
  • Student scholarships. The PPS Foundation provides money for college and summer camp scholarships to assist students in furthering their education and career readiness.
  • Horizons Program. For seven years now, the Horizons Club exposes students to professionals working in a wide range of careers in a weekly meeting for career and college readiness education.
  • Adopt-A-School. This 30-year program in our school district has been overseen by the PPS Foundation now for the last four years. The program has new endeavors such as the Making the Grade Conferences and the Little Free Pantries, Little Free Libraries, and expanded Snack Pack Programming.
  • Basic Need Support. The PPS Foundation provides uniform and clothing needs for all students plus emergency support for families that experience hardships and beyond.

Following breakfast, Davis and her sister, Solivian Dismuke, a member of the PPS Foundation Board of Directors, spent time visiting Manual.