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At Harlem Daycare, College Scholarships Won Before Kids Even Start School

 A pre-K class at Round The Clock Nursery in Harlem where there are two scholarship recipients.
A pre-K class at Round The Clock Nursery in Harlem where there are two scholarship recipients.
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Dartunorro Clark/DNAInfo

HARLEM — At Gail Davis’ Round The Clock Nursery, success starts before toddlers can walk.

Davis, who began her daycare operations out of her Harlem apartment 19 years ago and has since expanded to three locations in Harlem and one in the Bronx, has been handing out $10,000 college scholarships for nearly a decade.

Davis said she swelled with pride as she watched her first class of toddlers graduate in the early 2000s. It was her dream realized, she said, but she wanted a way to track her surrogate children.

“All of a sudden it occurred to me that I wouldn’t see them again,” said Davis, who was born in Trinidad and moved to the U.S. in 1970. 

“I thought, ‘How can I hold onto just a few of them?’”

 Gail Davis shows a student's folder, which is one way to track a student's progress.
Gail Davis shows a student's folder, which is one way to track a student's progress.
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Dartunorro Clark/DNAInfo

Davis met with a financial advisor in 2005 and began the program two years later.

As the best and the brightest of her daycare operations graduated, she would gift the scholarship which could only be accessed after they graduate high school and be used to support college education.

About nine students a year are selected. Currently, 75 stand have been promised the money when they go to college.

Davis said the cash comes through grueling fundraising and, on rare occasions, from her own pocket.

Many of the students are Harlem residents, but others come from The Bronx, where she founded her first center after she expanded from her in-home daycare, as well as Connecticut.

Davis said she follows the child’s growth from the time they enter any one of the daycare centers to after the time they leave through progress reports from staff.

The ones who have outstanding attendance, parent participation and show cooperation with peers, among other factors, will be selected.

Parents, she said, sign an agreement which stipulates the requirements of the scholarship, such as essays at certain points in the child’s academic career and community service hours to be completed by the parents and the child.

“Initially there were no requirements because I just wanted to follow my kids,” she said.

“But now we want to be sure that this parent is interested in academics for the child and that they support the child."