MADISON (WKOW) — No matter how many times life brought her down, Felicia Anderson Davis picked herself back up.
Now, she’s teaching others to do the same.
"I was actually homeless from the ages of 12 to 19 years old."
She had a tough childhood on the streets of Chicago.
"I wouldn’t know where I was gonna sleep. I didn’t know what I was gonna eat. I didn’t know how I was gonna get to school."
And she didn’t have anyone to guide her.
"I didn’t have a two parent household. I didn’t even have my mom. She was a victim of drug abuse then and she still is now."
Felicia became pregnant when she was 18 and knew she wanted a different life for her child.
"I told myself I would do whatever I needed to do to fight my way out of this."
With money she got from a school guidance counselor, she hopped on a bus and came to Madison.
"Madison saved me at one point."
In the ten years that followed, she had more children, but found herself homeless again at the age of 28.
"It was hard to find housing for 3 little kids and I didn’t have any work at the time."
With no place to go, she created one, not just for her family, but for other kids struggling, too.
"I went to the schools and came to different neighborhood meetings, just to bring awareness to my organization."
She even met with Mayor Paul Soglin and discovered the Brentwood neighborhood on Madison’s north side was the most underserved.
"I didn’t want any other kid to have to experience what I’ve experienced."
And so, while Felicia and her family were living in their car, DSS Community Center was born in Brentwood, named after her kids.
"I basically just partnered with existing organizations in order to implement the programs."
Now, 5 years later, Felicia’s served more than 150 kids in grades 6 through 12.
They go to the Warner Park Community Recreation Center a few days a week for free after school programs.
"We provide employment opportunities for youth. Sometimes we have opportunities for adults. We also provide a Brentwood Community Garden Program that aims to increase food access for African American and minority families."
14-year-old Zvarian Yancy has been a part of DSS since 6th grade.
He says, "It’s not just all about homework and just having fun. It’s also about yourself. Getting to actually know yourself better and other people that live in the community as well."
Even Felicia’s own kids are getting important life lessons from mom.
Her 15 year old daughter Destiny says, "I’m Learning that I should always strive to help other people and that I shouldn’t be selfish and I should be courageous and always follow my dreams and do what I believe."
Now, Felicia plans to expand her services to kids in elementary school and open a daycare for low-income families.
" I have a certain peace on the inside of me. Because, I’m not just fighting for me, but I fight for these kids, every day."
Felicia says DSS is always accepting new kids into the program.
She says, in order to implement the quality programs offered, she’s partnered with UW-Madison Student Union, Vera Court Neighborhood Center, River Bank Food Pantry, Community Action Coalition, Warner Park, MMSD and Goodman Community Center.