Tony Davenport has a unique perspective when he listens to the ongoing conversations asking for change in law enforcement practices. He is a proud young Black man who wants to see solutions to incidents of brutality that have rocked the nation. He also wants to help make those changes from the inside.

The freshman from Chicago is a criminal justice sciences major, and he plans to be involved in improving how that important work gets done.

“I want to be part of reconstructing law enforcement and bringing more diversity to law enforcement,” said Davenport. “Becoming an FBI agent is my top choice.”

As he stands focused on the academic starting line with a clear vision ahead, he knows he didn’t arrive at this moment alone. He had help along the way with a support system that helped shape his views and instill a drive to make the world a better place.

As a little boy of about 2, he was adopted by his great aunt and uncle, Eddie and Melody Sturgis. They are his parents, and with three children of their own already, he appreciates all they have done for him. In addition to love, they taught him about the honor of hard work.

“My mother worked very hard in banking for 20 years and for several years now in health care,” Davenport said. “She took me in and did everything for me.”

His father works in landscaping and is an Army veteran.

“He taught me discipline, ambition, and work ethic is probably the biggest thing,” Davenport said. “There wasn’t a day that I was sitting around.”

Having a father with a military background helped stoke Davenport’s desire to aim high in his personal goals. Ambition, he said, gives him something to strive for.

“There’s a Shakespeare quote I like that says ambition is the soldier’s virtue,” he said. “My dad definitely taught me everything I know as a man. A lot of kids don’t have a father figure, especially minorities, but I’m blessed to have my dad in my life.”

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Davenport also takes a lot of pride in who he is as an individual.

“As an African-American male, I just always try my best to be my natural self and to work hard,” he said.

Those efforts paid off with acceptance letters from several colleges. He had already applied to about 15 schools when he applied to Illinois State University. There are three factors that make him proud to be a Redbird, Davenport said.

The first is community: “Ever since I stepped foot here, people are nice and friendly, and everyone is so nice and cordial,” he said.

The second is engagement, noting all the kindnesses he’s experienced.

“A lot of the helpers at the dorm (Watterson Towers) are sophomores, so they’re just a little older and willing to help,” he said.

Lastly, he has appreciated the diversity he’s witnessed in these first days of his college career.

“It kind of reminds me of my high school, where there are people from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s a welcoming place, and there’s no animosity.”

He strives to foster that kind of environment in his future profession, too.

In high school, he was involved in peer ministry, student government, drama club, and a mentoring program. He was also a member of the National Honor Society. At Illinois State he expects to keep himself busy by keeping himself involved.

“I think I’ll pursue sort of the same things I did in high school,” Davenport said. “Leadership opportunities for sure, student government, and possibly Greek life.”

With older siblings who all attended college and having gone to a high school with a heavy college-preparatory focus, Holy Trinity High School in Chicago, higher education was on Davenport’s radar from an early age.

Before he left home to come to Illinois State one of his mentors connected him with an FBI agent who is also an alum of Holy Trinity. Another great opportunity Davenport had was working as an intern at Chicago’s City Hall toward the end of high school, which he called “an amazing experience.”

Davenport’s road to becoming a Redbird wasn’t always an easy path, but it was made smoother by his family and by his teachers and friends. And, he believes, by something even greater.

“God was on my side,” he said.

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at