Davie County is flourishing with respect, compassion, and bright-minded individuals from all walks of life.
The Davie Respect Initiative, or DRI, is a program that embraces these characteristics of our county to encourage and promote the youth in our community to actively demonstrate respect. What started as a small program has now grown into a more well-known movement with ambassadors, team leaders, and generous donations from community members.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Davie Respect Initiative offers a financial reward for any youth aged 12-21 for creating and implementing a “Respect Project.” From the Davie Respect website, a Respect Project is “anything that increases respect in Davie County by young adults doing good, being kind and promoting respect to people, animals, or the environment in Davie County.”
We had the opportunity to speak with Julia Burazer and Susan Baggett, two members of the DRI Team, to gain more insight into the origins and objectives of the Respect Initiative.
“It started in 2018. It was just an idea [about] what we could do that would help empower young people to bring out their creativity and their imaginative ideas that would make the community better. One thing that we thought of that could do that was ‘Respect’. So, that’s how it became the Davie Respect Initiative…” said Baggett.
If you’ve passed by a billboard, you might have seen the DRI Motto in bold letters:
“Do Good. Be Kind. Show Respect”
It is eye-catching for sure, and the prospect of a $1000 stipend is enticing to many. So we asked about the purpose and goal behind the monetary incentive.
“You know, it’s not really a scholarship program even though most of the people who have been awarded use it for college… but, it’s actually for anything the person wants to use it for. Scholarship kind of associates itself with something you achieve, but this is just about what you’re doing that’s good,” said Burazer.
Some who have received the award have even used the money they won to put back into future projects for the community. One of last quarter’s winners, Maddie Kulis, used her stipend to purchase a canopy to continue her Buddy Walk team from last year to raise awareness and funds for Down Syndrome.
“One of the reasons we didn’t want to stipulate what the money was for was just what we’ve been talking about: someone who’s interested in helping the community is going to be a respectful person, and it doesn’t matter what they use the money for. If they’re a respectful person, then they’re demonstrating that and being an example, that’s far more important than what they put the money into,” said Burazer.
The program has only been around for a few years but is making leaps and strides towards becoming a household name in Davie. Ambassadors who have previously completed a project and wish to continue supporting the program meet regularly and discuss ways to expand and help the community. This group of ambassadors has grown larger, and they are some of the biggest promoters of this program. The ambassadors also help each other in a mentorship fashion, providing advice and support to other members when needed.
In addition to the $1000, the DRI program offers other benefits for the ambassadors. These benefits consist of seminars, potential internships, and other opportunities within the community.
“The Davie Respect Initiative has had a huge impact on my daily life. Being involved with this program has opened my eyes to how much my actions can affect others,” said Davie Respect Ambassador Madi Rogers. “As for being a part of the panel, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the youth in Davie County develop great ideas about respect. I love being involved in the process of making Davie County a more respectful environment to live in and hope always to be working with such a wonderful group of people!”
Up to three winners are selected each quarter by the DRI Panel, which is composed of five volunteers from the community, including an ambassador.
Panel members are not always the same for each quarter, and identifying information for applicants is omitted. Both individuals and groups of people are eligible for entry in the Davie Respect Initiative. Students may apply on their own, or anyone can nominate a group or person for the Davie Respect Initiative; the DRI team will inform the nominee of their status, give the details of the program, and invite them to apply.
“[The DRI Program] can give someone the confidence that they may not have had before to be recognized for an idea they had. That can mean a lot, especially for a young teenager… to be recognized in that way, it can be a game-changer,” Burazer said.
When asked about what the future of the program looked like, Burazer responded with a smile, “You running it.”
They went on to elaborate about other members of the Davie County Community joining in by volunteering with the DRI as a selection panelist, a group of administrators, or as someone who can invite an Ambassador to intern or visit; the door is wide open to possibilities.
“It’s not ours, it’s the community’s. It’s something by the community for the community. We love being part of it and meeting all the young people… but really, just having it be Davie County”, said Burazer.
The respect initiative was designed so that future community leaders and prior ambassadors can step up and be a part of the DRI Team; this allows the program to grow regardless of the status of the current team in the future.
“The program doesn’t really belong to anybody. It is just supported by a variety of people in the community, including young people. The more the ambassadors want to run it, the better,” said Burazer.
All funding is by donations from members of the community. There is a fund at the Davie Community Foundation called “The Davie Respect Initiative Fund,” where anyone in the community can donate to help the program continue to spread respect across the county.
The two newest ambassadors for this quarter are Mary Cain and Salem Taylor, both with outstanding ideas and a clear understanding of respect.
Salem Taylor, 12, seeks to create a website where older individuals are partnered with younger people as pen pals. Mary Cain, age 16, focused on the recreational needs of homeless families by crafting and delivering corn hole sets to Family Promise for use by families.
The Davie Respect Initiative is a fantastic way Davie recognizes the bright minds of the youth in the community, and it is expanding in scope and size with each new ambassador. Listed below are the names and projects of all previous DRI winners.