What's New With Student U

  • Ms. Litehsha Garrett - Discovering Her Best Self

    College Graduation Series

    Interview by Alyzia McAlmon

    Ms. Litehsha Garrett has discovered her best self while attending the University of North Carolina Greensboro, while working to receive her B.S in Recreation and Parks Management. As the Vice President of Delta Sigma Pi’s International Business Fraternity and a member of the Nu Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, Litehsha has displayed great leadership skills on her college campus. Litesha takes great pride in being apart of the inaugural group of Student U Students in 2007.  Her many accomplishments in life and on the UNCG campus set a great example for all of the Student U students following in her footsteps on the journey to college graduation.

    What school are you graduating from? What will you be earning a degree in?

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a  B.S. in Recreation and Parks Management

    What extracurricular activities did you participate in?

    I was the president of The Black Business Students Association, Vice President of Delta Sigma Pi’s International Business Fraternity and I am a proud member of the Nu Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated

    What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome as a college student?

    The toughest obstacle I faced as a college student was staying focused and motivated as I lost both when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

    What are your goals and aspirations after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

    I plan to attend graduate school to earn my MBA. I see myself somewhere in either Virginia or Georgia working as a recreation center assistant director and gaining experience so that I can get started on owning on my own recreation center.

    How have you grown as a person over the last 4 years?

    I have grown so much as a college student these past 4 years. I have become independent, polished my professionalism skills, created networks and acquired knowledge that will definitely prepare me adequately for the real world.

    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 helping me set and achieve goals throughout my time in college by providing a job opportunity with experience for me to help me realize what I really want to do in life for a career. I have made an impact on my campus community by participating in so many organizations throughout my years with different leadership positions that have allowed me to provide learning opportunities for other students as well as give back to the Greensboro community as a whole.

    Which of Student U’s core values has been most meaningful in your journey to graduating?

    Discover Your Best Self has probably been the most meaningful and impactful in my journey because I came into college majoring in something that did not necessarily make me happy but as I matriculated through a couple of majors I found the right one for me and I discovered how I can be my best self for me and for others.

    How has your perspective on the world changed since graduating from high school? 

    My perspective on the world has changed on the world since I have graduated from high school because I got the opportunity to be given a piece of what independence looks like and I am still learning everyday how to budget and manage things in terms of money and time.

    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 to Class 2022 is to stay strong and endure. There will be so many challenges and obstacles you face in life but hard times do not last and your senior year will be there before you know it. Persevere.

    Want to get in touch with Ms. Litehsha? Or learn more about her work? Here is how:

    Learn more or conact at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/litehsha-garrett-0331b4118/

  • Mr. Dante Evans - The Importance of Community

    College Graduation Series

    Interview by Alyzia McAlmon 


    Mr. Dante Evans is one of the first 50 students from the summer of 2007 and is graduating this spring. He is one of the many success stories that make up the diverse family of Student U students and staff. As he prepares to graduate from The University of Maryland in May, Dante made sure to shed light and place emphasis on how consistent Student U has been throughout his journey in his interview.  It is the consistency of our presence within the lives of our students, the over 7,500 hours our students directly engage with our organization from sixth grade through college and the countless hours outside of this time that these students walk through life knowing that Student U is a part of them, our values a part of their spirit, our belief in them a part of their own belief in themselves. In honor of the first class of students accomplishing yet another goal, college graduation, we have started a College Graduation Series to share their stories and honor their commitment to their goals and the program for the past 11 years.

    Dante, what is the most exciting part about pursuing your dream in becoming a sports broadcast journalist? How have your goals and initiatives changed from freshman year to now? What career-related opportunities have you had during your journey?

    The most exciting part about pursuing my dream was being able to have my hands on many different aspects of the sports journalism world. During college I was able to work in various sports fields, from working the high school sports desk at the Washington Post, to becoming a broadcast network intern for the Washington Redskins, and many things in between. I was able to work at these amazing, nationally recognized organizations while attending school and was able to work and produce content with professionals on a weekly basis. Many people don't get to say they accomplished those things during the school year. My goals have changed completely from freshman year to now. When I entered college, my goals were to be a play-by-play broadcaster for a sports team or network. As I progressed through the journalism program, I realized that I was a great storyteller, but the best way that I could tell stories was behind the camera and not in front of a mic. My aspirations are to now be a videographer or documentarian for a company or television station somewhere in the country. I never knew about this occupation until I went to college and realized that it was something that I could do and never get tired of. Freelancing with the Big Ten Network, working for the Washington Post, and interning with the Washington Redskins and C-SPAN has given me a great viewpoint of multiple aspects of the journalism world and have solidified my feelings that I choose the right major and the right career path for myself.

    What school are you graduating from? What will you be earning a degree in?

    I am graduating from the University of Maryland. I will be earning a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism.

    What extra-curricular activities did you participate in?

    I was a campus tour guide all four years of college. I was a member of the Maryland Association of Black Journalists, the Associated Press Sports Editors – Maryland Chapter, and I was the social chair of the Maryland chapter of the National Press Photographers Association.

    What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome as a college student?

    Time management for sure was my toughest obstacle to overcome while in school. Being that the journalism major requires many hours outside of the classroom, you can get caught up in gathering stories and doing research for your journalism classes and completely ignoring the other classes you are enrolled in. It took almost the first two years of college for me to really master putting in the amount of work needed to create successful stories for my journalism classes and managing my other classes enough to still be active in my extra-curricular activities.

    What are your goals and aspirations after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

    My goals and aspirations after graduation are to be employed working in videography or video production for a company or organization. In 5 years, I'll hopefully be at a higher level at that same company or working at a different company with a more important video production job.

    How have you grown as a person over the last 4 years?

    I've grown in multiple ways during my four years in college. Working in multiple professional organizations has taught me how to work in a professional environment with all types of people from different walks of life. Being a tour guide on campus has taught me many things. It forced me to craft my public speaking abilities, because I'm giving 90-minute tours to families and school groups from all over the world, some who have a family history of attending college and some who have never stepped foot on a college campus before. Being a tour guide crafted my critical thinking skills, because there are countless questions and situations that you will find yourself in during a tour and you must be able to think on your feet and answer the question in a professional manner, because all eyes are on you. I know I can go into any room, any environment, and can have a great conversation with any person I encounter, and I owe some of that to the tour guide organization. Those skills also play into my ability to network. Attending conventions and workshops through the journalism school has allowed me to get my name and my brand out to people from across the nation, and that's where being comfortable speaking to people comes into play.

    How has Student U had an impact on helping you set and achieve goals throughout your time in college?

    Student U has had an impact on me setting and achieving my goals by being there for me. Sometimes, it's not about the things you do financially, but just being there when someone needs you to listen. The amount of people from Student U that have listened to me when I needed them to when I had a question, concern or a problem. These were not just current Student U staff members, we're talking about Student U teachers from my early days as a middle schooler in 2007. One of my teachers, Ms. Megan, lives in Washington, D.C. and we constantly see each other, and she has guided me through some tough situations and decisions I needed to make in college. There are also many people I can text, call, or email about a problem and I know they will give me their honest opinion and tell me what the best choice is to them.

    How have you made an impact on your community? (Student U, Durham, School Campus)

    I've made an impact on my community by being an example to younger students in my major. There are many students that I help in the journalism school who are trying to craft their video skills in the classes that I took during my early years of college. The journalism community is such a small one on a campus of over 36,000 students, so we've built a family within the university. The same help that I received when I was an underclassmen taking these intense journalism courses, I intend to give it to these younger students who were in the same position that I was. Showing them how to create dynamic stories is something that I enjoy doing, but I also see it as a responsibility of mine as an upperclassmen in the journalism school. Being a tour guide is probably the most visible way I'm giving back to my community. Being able to impact the lives of children from all over the country, to show them that not just the University of Maryland, but any college is enjoyable and attainable for all types of people. Being able to have an impact on one of the most important decisions in a person's life is an amazing feeling to have, and I am lucky that I was able to do it for four years at the University of Maryland.

    Which of Student U’s core values has been most meaningful in your journey to graduating?

    Dream Fearlessly is the Student U core value that has been the most meaningful to me. My school has a motto called Fearless Ideas, which goes hand in hand with Student U's core values. There were always times, especially during those first two years, where I would be timid in applying to internships, during class assignments, in almost anything important. As I started to believe in myself and realize that I could do amazing things, I started to reach for the stars. I was never scared to apply for a position of apply myself in class or during an assignment, because the dreams began to flow in my mind. Seeing the success of my peers at school and in Student U gave me even more of a reason to dream fearlessly, because I was seeing people live out their dreams with my own eyes.

    How has your perspective on the world changed since graduating from high school? Life? Student U?

    The world is much bigger to me now than it was in high school. I've been exposed to so many different cultures and backgrounds since attending college. It gave me a look into what else is happening in our country that I was never introduced to in high school. I've been able to educate myself and becoming a more diverse and well-rounded citizen. My views on life have become much more realistic now that graduation is steadily approaching and the real world is right around the corner. My perspective on Student U has strengthen in a way. I wasn't too sure if Student U would be as important in my life since I wouldn't physically be in Durham, or even in North Carolina. I honestly thought I would get lost and forgotten in the program being that I went so far away for college, but luckily that was not the case at all. Student U has showed me that there are people in this world who will always have your back no matter how near or far you are. I've always claimed Student U as my family, and they have proven to me time and time again that they are indeed my family.

    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 advice for the Class of 2022 is to be active at your school, join organizations, meet people, talk to people. No matter how large or small your school is, you can always find a community there that fits you. You will never find that community if you don't try. Try something different, join an organization your friends aren't in. You may never know where your closest friendships will be made if you stick with the same people and same things you were doing in high school. Life is about being adventurous, making mistakes, meeting people, and enjoying life. Don't allow your past to dictate your future. The people you hung out with in high school may be doing different things in college and that's okay. Live life for yourself and not anybody else. Do things that you want to do, not what others are doing because it may seem cool or not because someone necessarily tells you that you should. Make those mistakes on your own, through your own decisions, the best lessons are taught from personal trial and error.


    Want to get in touch with Mr. Dante? Or learn more about his work? Here is how:

    Learn more or conact at LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/dante-evans-jour

    View his work: https://vimeo.com/danteevans.

  • Invest in the Student U Brilliance Lab


    Student U students joined together to create the vision for an innovation and computer lab. Located at the newly-purchased W. G. Pearson Center, The Brilliance Lab will be a state-of-the art space that will nurture creativity, collaboration, and innovation. The Brilliance Lab—a space where technology and empowerment merge— will create an environment in which we can approach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with the mindset of problem solvers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

    Student U has created a campaign page on CrowdRise through which families, teacher alumni, and supporters can invest in the dream of a Student U Brilliance Lab for W.G. Pearson. By investing in The Brilliance Lab, you are investing in us as we continue to develop into change agents and demonstrating your belief in our power to change the world. This investment will go directly towards the logistics and operations that will make The Brilliance Lab possible.  Watch the video above to learn more about the students' dream.

    Empowering Students to Close the Digital Divide with Brilliance on Crowdrise

  • Spreading Joy

    Today would be Sam Kimberg's 98th birthday! Sam was Dan Kimberg’s grandfather and the man that inspired the values and joy that are at the center of Student U. He is remembered and honored each year in our Sam Kimberg Award. This award is given to one Student U community member who has brought the most Joy to our community. The winner is then asked to write a chapter in the book "Sam's School" about how he or she has learned to spread Joy to the WorldCheck out a small excerpt of their thoughts below and honor Sam on his birthday in your own way by going out and spreading joy!

    "To spread joy to the world, we must be fearless. We must be authentically ourselves. We must be brave. We must fail. We must lean into community. And last but not least, we must love."
    - Bettina Umstead: 2015

    "Student U has been a family filled with people who accept me for who I am, flaws and all. They have also helped to mold me into the person I am today. A wise person once told me, “Life is too short, so have fun and make sure to pass along the fun to everyone you meet.” Three years later, I still live by that principle and I hope that I have brought happiness to at least one person every day."
    - Ti-Vianna Webster: 2014

    "Bringing joy to the world required me to not only voice my ideas but follow with action."
    - Michelle Bridgers: 2013

    "Having joy at one’s surroundings and having people and places with which to share that joy are key to spreading joy in the world."
    - Ian McDiarmid: 2012

    "Our students are a great example of this need for acceptance. They are all incredible young people, but like all young people many are still searching to find themselves. I believe that the greatest gift we can give to them is a positive and encouraging love of all their unique and even awkward eccentricities. In fact, bringing joy to our world is as easy as giving love."
    - Emily Jenkins: 2011

    "This award was given to me for bringing JOY to our community. This award confirmed a lesson I have been learning for years— remaining true to who I am is how I will change the world."
    - Muriel Smith: 2010 

  • Equity Meets Education

    Our Executive Director Alexandra Zagbayou recently gave an interview with Education NC about her thoughts on equity in education. She discusses the importance of supporting our students in the depth of resources needed to be successful through school and once they get out of school. At Student U we try to create an environment where we develop a positive racial identity and ask students how do we journey with you.

    “Young people are willing and ready to be engaged. The question is how are we making sure we are putting the right information in front of them and allowing them to play a bigger role in this work feels like an opening we should not undermine.”

    She also stresses the necessity of a holistic approach to closing the achievement gap and building ways that schools can work in partnerships outside of education, because those are how we will change the educational outcomes for the students we care about.

    Hear more from Alexandra in the interview above or listen to the Equity Meets Education panel to learn more about the organizations in Durham and their strategies in creating educational opportunities for underserved students and families.

  • Student U and Duke University - Early Partnership Highlight

    To see the potential of our future, we first need to understand our context and honor our history. As we continue to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary, this month we will be highlighting some of our early partnerships.

    From Student U’s initial creation in a Duke University class, Duke has provided tremendous support to the organization’s development. Duke’s Program in Education designed much of the Student U curriculum and application process. Professors in the Sanford School of Public Policy built the evaluation framework for Student U, and Duke Master’s and PhD students led the implementation of Student U’s evaluation system for years until Student U hired a full-time Assessment Coordinator. Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs (DARA) and DukeEngage have provided technical support and financial assistance to Student U. DARA created the Duke-NCCU Unity Teaching Fellows Program to promote collaboration between Duke and NCCU students who work for Student U. President Richard Brodhead and Cindy Brodhead were the proud hosts of a celebration for the families of the Class of 2014 upon students’ graduation from high school. At all levels of the University, Student U has benefited from strong relationships with Duke.

    Teachers: 57 current and former Student U teachers are Duke students and alumni. 

    Staff: 15% of Student U full-time staff members are graduates of Duke. 

    Financial Support: Duke has provided $168,000 of direct financial support to Student U.

    As the largest employer of Durham citizens, Duke plays a significant role in shaping Durham policy. Student U hopes to enhance its partnership with Duke, working together to advocate for a Durham where all students can succeed. Specifically, Student U is interested in working with Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs to provide technical assistance to its recipients of funding and with Duke’s Program in Education as it considers the creation of a new graduate degree program in Middle School Education.

  • Student U and Durham Academy - Early Partnership Highlight

    To see the potential of our future, we first need to understand our context and honor our history. As we continue to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary, this month we will be highlighting some of our early partnerships.

    Durham Academy served as the original fiscal agent for Student U. By managing Student U’s financial accounts, providing organizational insurance, and development support, Durham Academy allowed Student U leaders to focus on building a great program for its students. In addition, Durham Academy was eager to fill its classrooms over the summer, making use of beautiful facilities and generously offering the maintenance, security, and facility support Student U needed. Durham Academy served as the fiscal agent of Student U until 2011 and as the physical home of the organization until 2014. Durham Academy teachers and administrators have invested their time and talent into enriching the Student U community, assisting Student U staff and celebrating Student U students. The partnership Durham Academy has formed with the Durham Public Schools through Student U has become a model for private / public partnerships.

    Teachers: 10 former Durham Academy students have served as Student U teachers. 

    Finances: Durham Academy has provided over $2,500,000 of cash and in-kind support to Student U over the past decade.

    In order to create a Durham in which all students can succeed, Durham Academy’s expertise, resources, and talent are necessary. Durham Academy’s recently completed strategic plan calls for increased community connection and active participation. Even with the purchase of the W.G. Pearson Center, Student U plans to continue to operate its Summer Academy on Durham Academy’s campus. Student U and Durham Academy are exploring ways for each entity to learn from the other, enhancing the quality of education both can provide.