What's New With Student U

  • Ms. Latosha Ruffin - Overcoming Challenges To Discover Her Best Self

    College Graduation Series

    Interview by Alyzia McAlmon 

    Ms. Latosha Ruffin has spent the past four years working to better herself and the community around her. In December, Latosha received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Latosha has been actively involved in her campus community as a member of the National Council of Negro Women, the UNCP Spirit Squad and as a site leader for the Office of Community and Civic Engagement. As she works to achieve the goal of graduating from college, she hopes to one day work in a crime lab as a forensic scientist. Her goals and aspirations serve as motivation and encouragement for Student U students of all ages.

    What school are you graduating from? What will you be earning a degree in? 
    I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry!

    What extracurricular activities did you participate in?
    I was a member of the National Council of Negro Women, the UNCP Spirit Squad and a site leader for the Office of Community and Civic Engagement.

    What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome as a college student?
    The toughest obstacle I had to overcome was staying motivated. As a Chemistry Major, I have struggled a lot with the amount of work given and understanding the material to study for the tests and quizzes. For the higher-level classes, tutoring was not given and the professors barely offered office hours so sometimes I was on my own. There were many times where I really felt like giving up, and in the start of taking my major courses, I thought about changing my major to something much easier. But I remembered that in order to achieve your goals, you have to be challenged and trust me, Chemistry was a CONSTANT challenge. But with the change of a positive mindset and others looking up to me, I motivated and pushed myself to finish with the same major I began with.

    What are your goals and aspirations after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    My plan is to take a short break and during this time apply for jobs and think about where I want to go for grad school. In five years, I see myself with a stable job either working in a Crime Lab as a Forensic Scientist or out in the field as a Crime Scene Investigator. I also see myself working towards my master’s, living on my own, and continuing to give back to my community.

    How have you grown as a person over the last 4 years?
    Over the last 4 years, I have grown so much as a leader. After being a leader of a group of students at volunteer sites and becoming a captain of 25+ members of my team, I sometimes just sit and think about how much I’ve grown. Who knew that someone who never talked to anyone would become a leader of several others? During the last four years I have faced several obstacles and learned so much about myself in the process. From these obstacles, I have gained many skills that have molded me into the person I am today.

    How has Student U had an impact on helping you set and achieve goals throughout your time in college? How have you made an impact on your community? 
    Student U has had an impact on me in helping me set and achieve my goals through the different programs/seminars offered and I have attended. I always had some important information to take away and use when goal setting. I’ve learned that writing your goals down gives me more motivation to accomplish them, so I write down my goals and the step by step process to reach them and like a to-do list I check off when I’ve completed that step, showing that I’m even closer to accomplishing that goal.  

    I have made an impact on my community through community service. I love giving back, there were people that helped me get where I am so the least I can do is give back to them or others.  The smallest act of kindness can make a big impact on someone’s life and that’s what I love most about volunteering. I have always volunteered while growing up and during my time in college. Even after graduating, giving back to others is something that I still want to continue doing.  

    Which of Student U’s core values has been most meaningful in your journey to graduating?
    During this last semester, the two Student U core values that were the most meaningful during this journey were discovering my best self and achieving greatness. During this last semester I felt like everything was against me. When I tried to do anything, something would go wrong every time and it got very frustrating. I really learned a lot about myself this semester and how to not the little things get to me and to understand that they were things just trying the slow me down but I was able to achieve greatness by continuing to persevere in spite of those small blocks and I passed every class I was stressed about and graduated!

    If you could give a student in the Class of 2019 one piece of advice as they prepare to attend college in the fall, what would it be?
    To the class of 2019, I wish you guys the best as you begin your new journey through college! When you attend college in the fall, don’t be afraid to ask for help and use your resources! Don’t give up on things that are difficult, and you don’t get. Get help! You can ask your professor to explain during lecture, or go to their office hours, you can attend tutoring sessions or go to the writing center and you can even form a study group with other classmates! There’s no limit on how many times you can go ask for help so don’t be afraid to use your resources. Asking for help sometimes shows professors that you are putting in effort to understand and do well on the assignments and tests and they sometimes look out at the end of the semester when boosting or curving grades. A lot of students don’t utilize these sources given, don’t be one of them!

    Want to get in touch with Ms. Latosha? Or learn more about her work? Here is how:
    Learn more or conact at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/latosha-ruffin-439470b1/

  • Mr. Kameron Johnson is Achieving Greatness

    College Graduation Series

    Interview by Alyzia McAlmon 

     

    Mr. Kameron Johnson overcame the challenges of being a student athlete and achieved a lifelong goal of receiving his bachelor’s degree in Community and Commercial Recreation from Wingate University. During his college career, Kameron played football and ultimately used this as a method to better his time management skills. Kameron hopes to pursue a graduate degree in sports management and become a football coach on a collegiate level.

    What school are you graduating from? What will you be earning a degree in? 
    I graduated from Wingate University and received my degree in Community and Commercial Recreation.

    What extracurricular activities did you participate in?
    During college I participated in football and the special olympics.

    What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome as a college student?
    The toughest obstacle I had to face in college was being a student athlete because of the time management.

    What are your goals and aspirations after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    My goal is to pursue my graduate degree in sports management. In five years I see myself holding a coaching position at a collegiate level.

    How have you grown as a person over the last 4 years?
    Over the past four years I have become more responsible, grown into a mature man, and learned how to manage time more effectively.

    How has Student U had an impact on helping you set and achieve goals throughout your time in college? How have you made an impact on your community? 
    Student U helped me create create and set academic goals each semester and gave me great resources I could use to help maximize my potential. I've made an impact on my campus by providing positive energy, being friendly, and making new friends.

    Which of Student U’s core values has been most meaningful in your journey to graduating?
    The core value that stuck with me most on my journey to graduation was I will achieve greatness.

    How has your perspective on the world changed since graduating from high school? Life? Student U?  
    Transitioning from high school to college and now being a college graduate I realized and discovered what life was about. I realized being more independent was something I would have to adjust to and how to live on my own and having to handle certain situations on my own rather than having my parents do it for me. Also I’ve began to see the world from an adult aspect because things start to get more serious as well.

    If you could give a student in the Class of 2022 one piece of advice as they prepare to attend college in the fall, what would it be?
    One piece of advice I would give the class of 2022 is to start off strong academically because it will help them towards the ends of their academic career. It’ll be easier to have a strong start so they don’t have to struggle and rush to gather all their credits and make sure they have all requirements that are needed for graduation.

  • Golden Door Scholars

    There have been many incredible moments of pride in 2018 at Student U and we very proud to congragulate Laura Duran Valezquez and Jatzyri Perez on recently being awarded the Golden Door Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship to the college of their choice! Join us in celebrating these incredible students!

    "I am overwhelmed with joy having earned the Golden Door Scholarship and couldn't have been possible without the support Student U has given me. As for now I will be transferring to another school for fall of 2019 pursing a major in Computer Science to hopefully to get a career in software developer."

    - Laura Duran Valezquez

    "I hope to further my education in a college or university that allows me to research mental illnesses and the brain. I'm striving to become a neurosurgeon but my mind is open to explore other professions within the medical field that my future college will introduce me to! Once I become a surgeon I will use my knowledge and skills by performing pro-bono surgeries for families in need. Si se puede!"

    - Jatzyri Perez

  • Ms. Tivianna Webster is Destined to Change the World

    College Graduation Series

    Interview by Alyzia McAlmon 

     

    Ms. Tivianna Webster was destined to change the world from the first day she set foot on North Carolina Central University’s campus as a freshman. Webster earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a concentration in public relations just last week, with goals to become a press secretary. Throughout her four years on campus, Tivianna began to discover her best self all while working towards achieving her goals.

    What school are you graduating from? What will you be earning a degree in? 
    I am graduating from NC Central University. My degree is in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations.

    What extra-curricular activities did you participate in? 
    I participated in PRSSA, The Campus Echo (school newspaper), and NABCJ.

    What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome as a college student? 
    The toughest obstacle I had to overcome would be balancing a job, my course load, organizational meetings and events, a social life, and taking care of personal family situations. 

    What are your goals and aspirations after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
    My goals and aspirations after graduation would be exploring myself as a person, getting a PHD, and becoming a press secretary. In five years, I see myself moving to DC to continue my path of becoming a press secretary. 

    How have you grown as a person over the last 4 years? 
    In the past 4 years, I have grown tremendously. I have realized that in order to be something in life or make a difference I have to put in the work. I used to believe that eventually things would happen or they would be handed to me on a silver spoon. I am also a little less self-centered now and more aware of the other people who have made a significant difference in my life. 

    How has Student U had an impact on helping you set and achieve goals throughout your time in college? 
    Student U has had a big impact on my life throughout college by helping to mold the person I am now. They have also been a big support system as well as a family. Student U has provided me with many opportunities and experiences.

    How have you made an impact on your community? (Student U, Durham, School Campus)
    I have tried to become an impact on my community by giving back and being a helping hand when I can. It not only helps my community but it helps put my life into perspective. 

    Which of Student U’s core values has been most meaningful in your journey to graduating?
    Destined to change the world has been a core value that has stayed with me. This is mainly because of people say they are destined to change the world but have not put in the effort it takes. I feel that I am taking the necessary steps to, hopefully, changing the world one day at a time. I also hope that others recognize and take initiative as well.  

    How has your perspective on the world changed since graduating from high school? Life? Student U?  
    My perspective on the world has changed from being very naive to realizing that life is a journey and it is up to us as an individual to choose how we are going to reach our destination. Life is not candy coated and it is not promised. We have to make the best out of it and cherish every moment you have. 

    If you could give a student in the Class of 2022 one piece of advice as they prepare to attend college in the fall, what would it be?
    My piece of advice would be to enjoy college. It is a new experience and a new chapter of your life so do not spend 4 years dealing with regrets. Things will come together and fall into place. Also, follow your heart and your gut because only you know what is best for yourself. 

  • Meet Derrick Beasley - Student U College Success Coordinator, Durham Native, artist, and public servant

    Photo by Chris Charles

    Derrick Beasley, Student U College Success Coordinator, works tirelessly to bring about equity in Durham. In addition to his role at Student U he is 1 of 4 cofounders of the collective Black August in the Park, a Black Genius Brand Ambassador for Village of Wisdom, and serves on the City of Durham's open space and trails commission. We are lucky to have such a brilliant and dedicated person on our team. Learn more about Derrick and Durham in the Love & Concern: The Tale of Two Bull Cities.

    "I want to see Durham shift from trying to attract cool people and companies from all over the country and world and really invest in making the city dope for everyone who is already here. To me, this is what could elevate Durham beyond the other "progressive" cities it so often gets compared to. We need more infrastructure to make the new Durham accessible. Progressive; left of center; liberal isn't good enough. Durham needs to be revolutionary." 

    Hear more about what Derrick has to say about the Bull City, as well as 100 other Durhamites in the newly released mini-book, "Welcome to the Bull City - A Prelude to The Bulls of Durham."

  • Celebrating The W.G. Pearson Center Legacy

    The Durham community and Student U gathered on October 20, 2018 to celebrate the Re-Opening of The W.G. Pearson Center, honor its history, and imagine a future where all students in Durham can succeed.

    In 2017, in partnership with the Durham Public Schools, Durham County, and Self-Help Credit Union, Student U has built a home at The W.G. Pearson Center. By becoming a permanent resident of and thoroughly renovating The W.G. Pearson Center, the building that has housed our programming and staff for three years, Student U will enhance its current programming and continue to improve educational outcomes for Durham students. 

    In order to empower the leaders of tomorrow and effectively march forward towards a Durham in which all students can succeed, we must first look backwards to understand the values and vision of the individuals whose legacy we are inheriting by being the stewards of this beautiful building.  

    The W.G. Pearson Center is named after William Gaston Pearson who was born as a slave on a Durham County plantation.  At the age of 21, after being self-taught throughout childhood, he continued his education at Shaw University.  Upon graduating, Pearson dedicated his life to ensuring others could receive a quality education. In 1886, Pearson created The Royal Knights, a progressive reform group that focused on helping southern African-Americans advance socially and economically.  As a result of his decades of teaching and leading schools, William Gaston Pearson became known as “Durham’s Black Superintendent.” Pearson empowered young black students with a thirst and demand for the rigorous and enriching education they deserved until the end of his career. Pearson spent his lifetime working to increase opportunities for those around him, and ever since, the building named for him has continued to house his value of education, fierce belief in all students, and hope of a better Durham.

    John Howard was the principal of the Pearson School in 1986 when it was named a national School of Excellence by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. When interviewed by the Durham Morning Herald, Howard said the secret to their success was weekly collaboration,"to agree on what [teachers] will teach, when and how." He continued, "They decide what works and what doesn't. Teachers are accountable to each other. Their classrooms are not islands."This commitment to providing an excellent education for young people in a collaborative environment where best practices are shared and commitments are held is what we hope to build in our re-imagined version of The W.G. Pearson Center.

    In 2009, Casey Barr-Rios was part of the first graduating class of the W.G Pearson Middle School and in 2017, she became one of the first Student U college graduates. Ms. Barr-Rios is now a full-time employee of Student U, committed to honoring the building’s past and crafting its future. As Ms. Barr-Rios shares, “William Gaston Pearson was a man that devoted his life to the empowerment of young people through education. As a student at W.G. Pearson and Student U, I was constantly reminded of how education was the way to changing my life. There was not a moment when I walked through these hallways that I was not reminded to chase my dreams without fear of failure. Not only was I taught to better myself through education, but I was also taught to lift those around me and transform my community. No matter how successful in life we may be, we must never forget where we came from and give back, change, and transform our communities. Student U and W.G. Pearson were two of the most influential parts of my life during my middle school years. Now, two spaces become one.”

    These are just a few examples of the many legacies that The Center’s history holds when it comes to academic success and advocacy for a better Durham. As we continue this work in creating a better future for our community’s children, we hope that we will do these legacies justice, building on the strong foundation laid before us. 

     We understand that alone, Student U cannot adequately honor these legacies to fulfill their vision for Durham. Therefore, Student U has sought partners to join together at The Center to combat systemic racism and structural inequalities in service of a Durham where all children can succeed. Individually, tenants of The Center will continue their work to achieve their desired goals. Collectively, tenants will form a consortium of like-minded organizations, sharing best practices and advocating for policies and investments to enhance systems that enable all people to thrive. 

    When reflecting on the vision for The Center, Student U Executive Director Alexandra Zagbayou states, “I couldn’t be more humbled and energized by the vision our community is building for The W.G. Pearson Center and grateful for the partners who will be joining forces with us to make it come to fruition. My highest aspiration is that The Center becomes a model for working with students, families and communities intergenerationally to ensure children in our communities have pathways to long-term success.”

    Over the past year, Student U has engaged with members of the Hayti community, Durham leaders, and long-time partners to dream fearlessly about what can happen at The Center. The results form the vision for the building’s future. The Center will remain a youth-centered space that houses activities and programs that enrich the lives and outcomes of young people while being accessible to the surrounding community of neighbors and organizations. 

    When considering what can be accomplished at The Center, Bishop Clarence Laney, Jr., pastor of the neighboring Monument of Faith Church since 1996, states, “when I heard that Student U purchased the building, I was excited because of the life that would come back to the building. Going forward, I think it has the capabilities to once again serve the community. There are many spaces needed for meetings, social events, dramatizations, and all of those can be possible in the community once again as a result of The W.G. Pearson Center being open.”

    County Manager Wendell Davis agrees. He believes that this equity hub can be, “one more contributing factor to bringing the old Fayetteville corridor back to life because the truth of the matter is we have seen a lot of great growth and development occur within our downtown and throughout Durham, and it just seems like a natural progression for us to begin to think about how we move along that progression to Fayetteville Street, connecting North Carolina Central Campus and other things along that corridor with our great downtown.” 

    Ms. Barr-Rios knows what is possible: “At The Center, students will be empowered to own their education in order to pursue their dreams and become change makers in this community. We will become tomorrow’s heroes.”

    Watch speeches from The W.G. Pearson Re-Opening Events

     

     

  • Building a Strong Foundation: Announcing our Partners at The W.G. Pearson Center

    Friends,
     
    For almost a century, The W.G. Pearson Center has been a place for Durham youth to learn and thrive. In 2017, in partnership with the Durham Public Schools, Durham County, and Self-Help Credit Union, Student U became the master tenant of The Center and is now preparing to welcome partners into the newly renovated building.
     
    William Gaston Pearson spent his lifetime advocating for the rights of African-American students and working to increase opportunities for those around him. The building named for him will continue to house his value of education, fierce belief in all students, and hope of a better Durham. Alone, we cannot adequately honor William Gaston Pearson and fulfill his vision for Durham. Today, we are honored to share with you our first cohort of partners. These organizations were selected not only because of the incredible work they have been doing in our community, but also because of the bold vision they have for young people and their families, The W.G. Pearson Center, and our Durham community. Together, we look forward to making our visions come to fruition.
     
    As we build a new community, we also felt it important to mark this new beginning with a new logo to represent the independent identity we hope The Center develops over time. We centered the building and its date of construction because it was considered one of the most sophisticated exterior designs for any school building in Durham when built and to honor the long legacy and history we have inherited. The rays exemplify the vision we have for The W.G. Pearson Center to be a positive impact that radiates throughout our neighborhood and the Durham community. 

    Introducing the first cohort of partners:
     
    The first is Village of Wisdom, led and founded by William Jackson. VOW describes itself as "a family-organizing and advocacy entity working to eliminate racial injustices in schools. To this end, we develop tools and resources that students, parents and teachers use to create learning environments for Black and Brown learners." At Student U, we believe that structural racism is at the root of the barriers our students face to reaching educational success. We are excited to have VOW in our village with their passion for empowering families with tools to successfully advocate for their children in schools. In addition to this, we are energized by VOW's vision for what is possible at The W.G. Pearson Center. In their application they wrote, "It is easy for us to envision working on Durham-specific collective impact efforts with partners at The Center, particularly around racial justice in Durham Public Schools. When we think about being in a building with Student U and other values-driven organizations in Durham, we think about an exchange of ideas and networks, and a culture of collaboration and constant growth." We're lucky to have them as partners. 
     



    The second is Book Harvest, led and founded by Ginger Young. Book Harvest believes that books are essential to children’s healthy development and well-being and that all children deserve to grow up in book-rich homes. To that end, they work to remove barriers to book ownership, to fuel a lifelong love of reading among America’s children that will enable success in school and in life. We were drawn to this line in their application, "Here is the vision we would hope to share with others at The Center: A Durham in which every resident is valued, respected, and civically involved. A Durham in which every parent has easy access to the essential tools, knowledge, and support to stimulate her child’s healthy development from birth and to steward her child through a successful childhood experience. A Durham devoted to two-generation support in which parents and children alike have easy access to the essential tools, knowledge, and support to realize whole family health and prosperity, including financial stability and stable housing. A Durham in which transformation is led by the community, in which decisions about the community are made with and by the community." We are lucky to have them as partners. 


    The Third is Rebuild Fellowship, founded and led by Chuck Reed. Rebuild's mission to advance the Kingdom of God by making disciples who receive, respond, and reproduce The Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the welfare of the city of Durham and surrounding communities. Of the organizations we have met, Rebuild has had the clearest vision for building community with neighbors and supporting the organizations housed in the building. In our meeting, Chuck shared a deep desire to make sure the neighbors felt welcomed and at home in the building by leading and hosting gatherings at The Center to build relationships with our direct community. We are lucky to have them as partners.