April 06, 2020
darnell davis helps at food bank

UNT Dallas alumnus Darnell Davis is a shining example of what it means to harness the trailblazer spirit and serve one’s community.

The 2019 biology graduate who was studying at Baylor and is scheduled to begin a master's program in Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this summer, is home in Dallas because of the COVID-19 outbreak. When UNT Dallas announced it was seeking volunteers for a drive-thru food pantry with the North Texas Food Bank, Davis didn’t think twice. He signed up to help, even though he could be putting his own health at risk.

“The act of service to those in need is a chosen way of life that I take very seriously,” Davis said. “Every day that I wake up is an opportunity to do better with my blessings and serve those in need. On that day, I was fortunate enough to assist a community of friends, family and loved ones. Seeing the vehicles filled with appreciative families and smiling children was well worth the risk.”

UNT Dallas and North Texas Food Bank volunteers loaded 3,750 boxes of food into cars that fed approximately 1,200 households. Well before the food pantry opened at 9 a.m., cars snaked out of the university parking lot and stretched for at least two miles down University Hills Blvd.

The number of vehicles revealed just how many families in nearby communities are in dire need of food during this COVID-19 crisis.

“This is a very stressful time for a lot of families right now,” Davis said. “Considering that South Dallas is already a food desert, and community members already have issues with access to quality health care, now throw the pandemic into the mix and it can be stressful on anyone's household. These conditions can create high levels of uncertainty that can get the best of any family. As leaders, we should ensure that communities are coming together, residents have access to resources and every opportunity to enhance a family's quality of life is done with enthusiasm.”

Davis practices what he preaches, and will soon make advancing public health his career. After graduating from UNT Dallas, he was accepted into graduate programs at Baylor and Johns Hopkins. He chose the Master of Public Health program at Baylor. He has since reconsidered the opportunity at Johns Hopkins.

“I have a bench lab background, and I missed the research and development experience,” Davis said. “The other factor was a friend of mine contracted COVID-19, and I was not able to help him. Seeing how this virus has affected members in my community gave me a feeling of helplessness; I wouldn't have wished that feeling on anyone. I felt that getting back into a laboratory setting was the best way for me to fix that issue.”

Davis, who also minored in chemistry at UNT Dallas, plans to graduate from the Johns Hopkins Biotechnology program in the fall of 2022. Among his goals are to earn a Ph.D., and promote the research activities of African-American scientists and other underrepresented minorities in the STEM field.