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Posted on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti custodians, community help send high school basketball star to national business competition

By Kyle Austin


Ypsilanti's Lavonte Davis goes up for a shot in a state quarterfinal game against Saginaw High Tuesday.

Daniel Brenner | file photo

Minutes after his Ypsilanti High School team ended its longest state tournament run since 1981, falling to Saginaw High in the state quarterfinals Tuesday, senior forward Lavonte Davis reflected on the feeling of playing for his community.

“We put a community on our back, and we tried to carry our community as far as possible,” Davis said Tuesday in a hallway at Grand Blanc High School.

A week later, Davis’ community is carrying him.

Two days before the state semifinal game, Davis was at the DECA State Career Development Conference in Grand Rapids, competing along with six of his classmates in the statewide business competition.

And the same week he helped his team win its first basketball regional title in decades, he achieved something no student at Ypsilanti High School ever has: a DECA state championship and a spot in the International Career Development Conference.

The only catch: the conference is in Anaheim, Calif., and the trip will cost $2,500

So on Wednesday, Davis and his business teacher Dorothy Kryskowski created a page on the website GoFundMe, to solicit donations from the community.

By Monday, five days later, more than $2,300 had been raised.

“It really almost brought me to tears when I saw it,” Davis said. “People always say the Ypsilanti community doesn’t care, the Ypsilanti community doesn’t support each other, but that’s a lie. The support that I got from the Ypsilanti community was amazing, it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Davis has until April 10 to raise the money for the event, which will go toward airfare, lodging and registration fees. He only needs 400 more dollars to get there.

The donations rolled in from more than 40 people, friends and strangers alike. One donor wrote that “I don’t know you but I feel like I do from watching you play basketball,” and gave $50.

The biggest single donor: the Ypsilanti High School custodians, who together gave $500 toward the trip.

Davis said he’s formed a kinship with the school's custodians and tries to never take them for granted, sometimes helping them clean the cafeteria. He even learned a few post moves on the basketball court from one.

“They work really hard, and if something’s wrong with the school they’re always on it,” Davis said.

Their donations will help him compete among the nation’s top business students in DECA’s annual international competition.

Davis, who will attend Northwood University in Midland, Mich. on a basketball scholarship, competes in the sports and marketing series. In competitions, he is given the role of a person involved in a business scenario -- one time he was a college athletic department employee, another time he was a concert organizer -- and must solve a problem while demonstrating an understanding of business and marketing concepts.

“It’s like you’re selling a product every time, so you’re selling your idea with that person,” Davis said.

And the competition fits well with Davis’ future dual roles: a future college athlete and business major.

“It’s really helped me a lot,” Davis said. “It makes you really use your head a lot.”

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

fantastic! great to read such a great story about kids doing well and the community getting behind them. Good for the kid and good for those who stepped up to help him.

Lisa D

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

Lavonte is an impressive young man who is clearly worthy of the community's support! And what an touching and generous thing the custodians did for for him, and for all of us through their inspiring, selfless example. Thanks for writing such a wonderful and heartwarming story, Kyle! Lisa Dengiz

Daniel Brenner

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

Gem of a story Kyle, Good find and great writing.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

Sounds like a good, hard working kid! Best of luck and make us proud! :) I hope that will write a follow-up article on Lavonte's trip to ICDC!

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

From the looks of it, Lavonte has raised about $700 since this story was posted this morning putting him over his fundraising goal. That's certainly not why we wrote the story, but it's nice to see people supporting his efforts.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Excellent to hear this. Thanks for the update, Pete. I agree: This isn't the purpose of the story, but it's a nice consequence of it. I also loved hearing about the custodians' role in this. What a great way to show the influence of building staff on students.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Nice story. Pretty good basketball team, also.

Kyle Austin

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

Very good basketball team. They really came together well in the playoffs

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

"Davis said he's formed a kinship with the school's custodians and tries to never take them for granted, sometimes helping them clean the cafeteria. He even learned a few post moves on the basketball court from one. 'They work really hard, and if something's wrong with the school they're always on it,' Davis said." How awesome is this ^^ that a student his age has that kind of respect for the school custodians. Congrats to Lavonte for his success on the court, in the business arena and as a role model for others. And great job on the story, Kyle.

harry b

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Odd comment. You speak as though its rare that a young adult would respect someone doing manual labor. I would think that young adults repect everyone who deserves respect. At least that is what I have seen among my 18 year old and his friends. They are very respectful to ALL adults.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Wow what a great attitude from an exceptional basketball player. Lavonte you keep up the great work and you are sure to succeed in everything you do.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Thanks for this great story, Kyle! I would not have been able to donate to help this remarkable young man if you hadn't written it. Congratulations to Lavonte on all he has achieved so far. It's just the beginning!

Kyle Austin

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

My pleasure, Patty. As a former DECA participant myself, I told Lavonte he's in for a great experience at the international conference.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

I love this story! It makes me so proud of my community, and happy for Lavonte! Good luck, Lavonte!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

Wow, what a great story. Congratulations to Mr. Davis and the Ypsilanti school and community.

Morris Thorpe

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

I am truly touched by the kindness of the custodians. This is the kind of story one can use as an example for years to come. Donation made.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Restoring my faith in humanity! Congratulations and best of luck!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 10:44 a.m.

Congratulations to Mr. Davis on his hard work in achieving these results, and to the community which stands behind him. This is a terrific story.