The Greenwood Promise needed a “renaissance person,” said Paul Cuenin, marketing director of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance.

In Katie Davenport, he thinks they have found their person.

Davenport will take over as the Promise’s new executive director Jan. 16, ending a search that began in September, when Kris Burris announced she would be leaving to join Piedmont Technical College as its director of dual enrollment.

The Promise is a scholarship available to any Greenwood County high school graduate who would like to attend technical college. It covers the entire cost of tuition after all other funding sources have been exhausted, making technical college — fees and housing aside — free for everybody in Greenwood.

Cuenin said that Davenport’s experience as a teacher within Greenwood County School District 50 is what set her apart as a candidate. Davenport has spent 13 of her 14 years as a teacher with the district and was named Westview Middle School’s 2017-18 teacher of the year.

Davenport said she had been searching for a leadership position since she acquired a master’s degree with a specialization in school administration and supervision from Grand Canyon University.

“I had pursued different leadership positions in the district, and either the timing was not right or the position was not right,” Davenport said. When she heard about Greenwood Promise’s opening, she saw an opportunity to lead, while maintaining close ties with students, whom she was reluctant to leave.

“The whole idea (of the Promise) is to have more students in Greenwood County go to college,” Cuenin said. That entails informing K-12 students in the county. “It is constant messaging: this is here for you, college is achievable in Greenwood. The idea is that we want to talk about the Promise starting in elementary school.”

Davenport’s other chief responsibility as executive director will be fundraising. The Promise is only $300,000 shy of its $5 million fundraising goal for Phase 1, which covers the cost of tuition at technical colleges.

Phase 2, for which the Promise will need to raise an additional $5 million, would cover the cost of junior and senior years at a four-year college for any Greenwood County high school graduate.

Davenport said that fundraising wouldn’t be a problem — it will be easy for her to sell a vision she believes in.

“There are a lot of things that they said would happen and we’re seeing that right now,” Davenport said, referring to the announcement this fall that Piedmont Tech saw the number of students from Greenwood County increase almost 30 percent in the two years since the Promise began doling out scholarships.

As a member of the Greenwood Humane Society’s Board of Directors, she was privy to the capital campaign that raised the money to build the new animal shelter, experience she plans on using in her new role.

Davenport is a native of Greenwood County. She graduated from Ninety Six High School and earned a degree in microbiology from Clemson University. After working as a cytogenetic technologist at the Greenwood Genetic Center for four years, she became a science teacher at Westview Middle School, where she has taught since, with brief stints at Greenwood High School and VirtualSC. During that time, she earned a Master of Education at Walden University as well as her master degree from Grand Canyon University.

“Sometimes I think people get into a kind of comfort zone,” Davenport said. “I think this is going to be an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.”

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.