Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is a Catholic school located only a couple blocks away from Fordham University. Compared to my apartment, it is just two blocks to the west. I found out about the school through a symposium I took this year regarding Jesuit values in today’s society. Almost every week my symposium and I would trek across campus, cross Fordham Rd. and arrive at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. We would volunteer to tutor the students there ranging from Pre-K to third grade. The school itself goes from preschool to 8th grade. The tutoring was a blast because the kids there were some of the most entertaining individuals I’ve ever come across. They spoke well with us College students and we developed strong friendships with each other. Once, we found out their air-hockey table was broken so all of our symposium, and class dean, contributed money to buy them a new one. Since the academic year has ended, my involvement at Mt. Carmel has unfortunately faded as well. Walking home yesterday I remembered my experience there and took a sharp right to head to the school. I rang the loud buzzer and I heard it echo through the gym from outside. All of a sudden the door swings open and it was one of the teachers whose students I had tutored once before. I re-introduced myself and he was very welcoming towards me. He reminded me his name was Anthony and that he did in fact remember seeing me around. I told him about this series I’m doing of writing a story a day for 100 days and he seemed intrigued. I asked him if I could write a story about Mt. Carmel and he gladly said yes. However, he told me he’s not the best man to talk to about Mt. Carmel. Anthony informed me to talk to Mr. Davis, a teacher who had been teaching at the school for a number years. Anthony said Mr. Davis would be in tomorrow and he would mention that I was coming in to talk to him.
Fast forward to today, and all of a sudden I am sitting in the schools gymnasium next to Mr. Davis, Anthony, and a number of students hanging out around the influential teachers. I pull out my phone and ask Mr. Davis if he’d be willing to let me record the conversation and he kindly accepted. Listening back on our conversation I couldn’t help but smile. First, I ask “How long have you been working here at Mt. Carmel?” He responds, laughing, “48 years”... I was amazed and had to ask again just to confirm what I thought I’d heard. He then told me with his raspy and unique voice that today was his last day at the school, tomorrow he’ll be retired. I was shocked to hear that and felt incredibly lucky to be able to talk to him before he left. What are the odds right? I ask him, “In a brief description, how would you describe Mt. Carmel?” He laughed in that classic Italian way saying “I could go on forever with this question, but I’ll tell you what, to me it’s home and family, and these kids attest to that” He pointed towards the older boys surrounding the table, “And these kids I didn’t even teach, yet they come back, because they feel it’s a home.” One boy, he told me, came from Florida just to say goodbye to him today. I thought that was unbelievable. He looked around and said “Uh oh, I’m gonna get emotional!” then laughed again. It was so sweet to talk to him. Returning, he said “That would be the essence, home and family.” He told me Mrs. Davis (his wife) has taught there as well. She’s retiring with him and has taught for 30+ years. Mr. Davis’ first students will be turning 62, and 63 this year.
My next question was “Where are most of the students from?” He quickly answered “The Bronx mostly, some come from Westchester but the majority are from the area.” This was nice to hear because knowing it was a private school, I kind of assumed
many of the students came from more distant, scattered places. But knowing that these kids all live in the same area added a level of intimacy and community to the environment. Lastly, I asked Mr. Davis this question, “What aspect of Mt. Carmel do you think holds this community together?” His response was really moving.“I think Diversity for sure, I mean when I first came here years ago it was pretty much an Italian American community. And as different cultures moved into the area, first it was a struggle because cultural differences can become a problem, but over the years, the diversity has become a melting pot of cultures that have accepted each other, play with each other, live with each other, and pray with each other.” He said he sees it in the kids as the grow up, it’s not something you teach but something that develops within them. From the moment I stepped in Mt. Carmel that was my first impression. The school was more diverse than any other place I had been to and everyone seemed to have a strong connection with one another. A sense of community and unity was felt across all students I came across.
I want to thank you Mr. Davis for being such an inspirational and influential person in the lives of your students. Your character and teachings will live amongst your students for not only their entire lives but their children's as well. It is people like you, your wife, Anthony and every other good, hard working adult in today’s age that shape tomorrow’s future. Here’s to 48 years! God bless Our lady of Mt. Carmel.
Mr. Davis (center), Anthony (top left)