Favorite athlete: Jeffrey Davis (my big brother)
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Favorite memory competing in sports: The feeling of excitement and disbelief I got after dropping four seconds my sophomore year in the 100 fly.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Looking at people’s judgmental and shocked faces when they hear me obnoxiously screaming for my teammates.
Music on mobile device: Contemporary Christian music, show tunes, and a little bit of Charlie Puth and Taylor Swift thrown in.
Future plans: Travel the world and share Jesus with people.
Words to live by: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but instead set an example for all believers in your speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”
One goal before turning 30: Step foot in 20 countries
One thing people don’t know about me: My room is ALWAYS messy, and I’m an awful speller.
By Craig Ostroff
Like everyone else, Colleen Davis has her bad days.
If you ask those around her, however, they’ll tell you that it’s difficult to tell when those days are. Because no matter how difficult classes may be, how stressful tests may be, how grueling practices may be, the Upper Moreland girls’ swimming team co-captain can always be counted upon to be upbeat and encouraging.
“Colleen is a kid who is always positive, who always has a smile on her face,” said Golden Bears’ coach Michelle Atkinson. “She’s always ready to work hard, and even if it’s the middle of the season and it’s a tough set, she may be gasping for air at the end, but she’s still positive, making sure she’s the first one giving everyone high fives, making sure everyone feels proud.”
For Davis, her sunny attitude comes from keeping both positive and negative experiences in the proper perspective. And she believes her ability to do so stems directly from her faith.
“Everyone has bad days, but I look at it and I think, ‘Thank God that the hardest thing I had to do was go through a difficult swim practice,’” Davis said. “That’s so easy compared to people who are struggling to find food or water or shelter. I know how lucky I am and I’m very thankful for all that God has given me.
“I do try to be a positive and encouraging person, and I believe that positivity comes from my relationship with Jesus. Because of my relationship with Him, and how He loves me, I’ve been told to love and encourage others the same way. I live my life trying to imitate Him and His love for people.”
That’s an awfully mature outlook on life, and it comes from a wealth of life experiences. Davis has participated in numerous mission trips and has had the first-hand opportunity to spend time with those who literally have nothing. She’s seen how even the smallest gestures of kindness can make all the difference in the world.
Davis has been to Harrisburg and traveled to Tennessee, Vermont, and Maine to perform various functions such as running a children’s club in a park, spending time with the elderly in a group home, and painting trashcans in poor communities.
And she will be returning to the Eastern European country of Moldova, where she will work in an orphanage in the unrecognized territory of Transnistria. Working with children is a passion for Davis, and having the opportunity to go back and see some of the kids she’s worked with in the past is a true delight.
“We’re going back to the same orphanage and that’s amazing to see those same kids and seeing them progress,” she said. “I remember one girl named Yulia, I had my hair in braids and she was pointing to my hair, she wanted me to braid her hair, and she was about 10 or 11. Just braiding her hair, that action meant everything to her. Things like that are so eye-opening to me. It means so much to share that love with those kids. Giving hugs was such a big thing for them. Sometimes I shy away from my parents’ hugs in public. Those kids would die for that. It makes me so grateful for all the love and all the people in my life.
“I’ve been on quite a few mission trips, and I feel so privileged and grateful to go on those. I’m so thankful for my family and my church to send me on those trips. They’ve made me recognize how grateful I am for what I have. Some of those kids would give anything for what I have.”
With experiences like those, it’s easy to see why Davis isn’t grumbling over long, arduous practices. Of course, Davis also knows that those practices will eventually pay off. Her hard work has been a key to building a pretty impressive career in the pool for Upper Moreland.
“Colleen is one of those kids who has the end goal in mind,” Atkinson said. “If we’re doing a set or something that some of the other swimmers might question, Colleen is the first to get everyone focused and tell them, ‘This is what we’re working for. What we’re doing now pays off at Districts and Suburbans.’ She is an awesome person to have as a captain on this team. I can’t say enough positive things about her.”
A four-year varsity swimmer who specializes in the 100 fly and 200 free and swims in relays as well, the two-year captain is looking for toward her fourth trip to Districts.
“This is really a fun time of year,” Davis said. “Suburbans and Districts are definitely very stressful and nerve-wracking, but I also think it’s the most encouraging time of the year. During practice, everyone on the team is checking up on each other, trying to encourage each other. That’s something really big our team has done all season, and especially now, where it’s really intense.”
Davis, who had the opportunity to play as many sports as she wanted as a youngster, gravitated toward swimming and field hockey. She stopped field hockey after her freshman year in order to focus on her efforts in the pool.
“What I really love about swimming is that it’s individual, and at the same time, it’s a team sport,” she said. “I can focus on how I’m doing in my race and push myself really hard, but we are a team and we are there to motivate and push each other past our limits. My individual times would not be where they are without my team pushing me.
“It can be hard to bring a team together in a sport like swimming, but this year specifically, we’ve done a great job of that.”
As the swim season winds down and the calendar creeps closer and closer to graduation day in June, Davis admits that senioritis occasionally rears its ugly head. She just fights through it, she said. Sometimes she convinces herself to push forward, occasionally she asks a friend to send a motivating text, but she always gets the job completed. After all, she doesn’t have time to slow down.
A Distinguished Honor Roll mainstay, Davis is taking four AP classes and, in her own words, “I don’t even know how many Honors classes … I think the rest are all Honors.”
In addition to all her schoolwork, homework, swim practices and swim meets, Davis is also involved in plenty of extracurricular activities.
She serves as Vice President on the Class of 2018 Class Council, which helps plan school functions, fundraisers, the class gift, and logistics of events such as a the prom and homecoming game.
She is a member of the school’s Drama Company and has performed in the spring musical the past three years and served on the stage crew the past two years for the fall dramas. Getting the opportunity to flex her creative muscles, Davis will be a lead alto in the chorus of this year’s production of The Addams Family and she’s portrayed Pilar in Legally Blonde, Wendy Jo in Footloose, and Ermengarde in Hello Dolly!
“It can be very stressful because the spring musical ramps up and practices run January through March during swim season,” Davis said. “So three of five nights a week I go from swim practice to drama rehearsal, and I’m not getting home until around 9.
“I could never imagine not swimming, but I can’t imagine not being part of drama company, either. It’s exhausting, but I love it all.”
Davis is also a student manager of the girls' lacrosse team. She is a member of the Spanish Club, the National Honor Society, Key Club, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which she helped start (along with her older brother) her freshman year.
“We meet every Friday morning, we usually have food and a devotional,” she said. “It’s really neat to be able to share my faith with kids in my school.”
As she looks to the future, Davis will be attending Wheaton College, where she will swim on the school’s swim team as she pursues a double major in elementary education and Christian Ministries with a minor in Spanish. But she won’t be heading for the Chicago suburbs right away. Davis is taking a gap year and will spend nine months doing mission work in Swaziland, Nepal, India, and Guatemala with the organization Adventures in Missions.
“I think nothing defines the kind of person Colleen is than taking the gap year and going for missionary work – that really sums up who she is as a person,” Atkinson said. “She’s always putting others first and helping those in need of help. We’ve talked about the fears of traveling abroad by yourself, but she puts the good humane work above herself. That’s Colleen in a nutshell.”
While it’s daunting to consider being far from the comforts of home for nine months, heading overseas with people she doesn’t know, Davis believes that missionary work will play a large part in her future, and this trip will go a long way toward letting her know if that’s where she belongs.
“This trip is much longer than anything I’ve ever done,” Davis said. “This is what I want to do with my life, so this trip will be a way for me to see if I truly have the passion to do this long-term. I’m going to be thrown into new situation, completely by myself, with a new chance to depend on God. That is my goal, to see if this is something I want to be doing, but learn to depend 100 percent on God for everything I am.”
Though Davis said she’s not quite sure what kind of mission work she’ll be performing overseas, she did receive a very promising sign.
“I was talking to family friend recently, telling him about the gap year,” she said. “He asked me if I chose those countries and I told him, no, that’s the route (Adventures in Missions) set out, that’s the one I gravitated toward. He said, ‘Did you know India, Swaziland, and Guatemala are among the countries with the most orphans?’ I really want to work with orphans. And it was so neat, it such a moment where I felt like God was affirming what He wanted me to do.”
Of course, leaving the comforts of home also means she will have left high school, and left behind the swim team that has been such a huge part of her life the past four years.
“There’s a part of me that is ready to move on, but at the same time, there will never be another time where I’m going to be with my best friends all day like I am now,” Davis said. “It’s hard, but at the same time, life does move on. I’m looking forward to new experiences and meeting new people but not forgetting where my roots are.
“I’m definitely going to miss the community and the atmosphere of this team – the positivity and encouragement, not just from swimming, but also for life, just being there to push each other. We really are a family. Those girls are my sisters. I’m so grateful I’ve had that experience, but it also makes it that much harder to leave them.”