Still I Rise: Meet Kiana Davis, Gates Millennium Scholar and Extraordinaire Leader

Born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, Kiana Davis won the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS)  and graduated from Barnard College in New York City with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Committed to discover ways to successfully help others overcome childhood adversity, she’s currently obtaining a masters in public health at Emory University.

Today, Davis serves as a guest speaker at receptions, conferences, luncheons and at public schools to inform the youth on overcoming childhood trauma, resilience, and the importance of guidance counselors. According to Daily Journal, Davis has taught high school students on goal-setting, healthy relationships, career readiness and life skills.

Despite the unfortunate experiences of witnessing domestic violence in her home, being homeless, and seeing her mother struggle with mental health, Davis still pushed through the adversity! In addition, her godmother provided a safe haven where she could ride her bike, make chalk drawings and dig in the garden as a child.

“During my junior year of high school- a particularly rough point in my life- I was recruited by the LEDA Scholars program. That summer, I attended LEDA’s seven week leadership intensive at Princeton University and returned home to Mississippi for my senior year of high school.”


Davis was able to identify and bond with the other students in the program because they shared similar life experiences while understanding her background in ways her classmates couldn’t. School also became her safe zone through times of trouble, thanks to her teachers who supported her with love.

After college, she worked at nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., and Tupelo. She was able to land her first job at Libra Group where she worked as a Project Manager and then as a Communications Executive.  Her recent work as a Field Educator for Families First for Mississippi in Tupelo expanded her passion in positive youth development programs.

“This job was on the ground level. It gave me a lot of respect for social workers and field educators. You don’t work in this profession unless you have a big heart.”

For more information on Kiana Davis visit her website or view the full article on Daily Journal. Davis created her website to empower, inform and motivate others on things she has learned during her rocky journey.

Written by Mashari Grissom