Student U welcomed its first class of 50 students and 16 teachers in the summer of 2007, as a result of the collaboration of Durham Public Schools, Durham Academy, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University.

Three years earlier, Student U's co-founder and Executive Director, Dan Kimberg, had seen first-hand the benefits of a students-teaching-students model through his work with Breakthrough Collaborative in New Orleans in 2004. Dan then worked with Duke student Amanda Dorsey, UNC-CH student Mary Williams, and the Durham community to bring the model to Durham.

The Student U model is successful because it harnesses students' power to change the world. The program inspires and empowers students of all ages by challenging them to use their passion to make a difference in their community. As a part of Student U, students and teachers of all ages develop a shared vision for a brighter future and gain the courage and skills necessary to make that vision a reality.