What's New With Student U

  • 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.

  • Student U and Durham County - 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.

    Student U is proud to be built by Durham, and for Durham. Since its creation, Student U has
    partnered directly with Durham County to build the strongest program possible, in service
    of building the strongest system of education possible for the Durham Community. Durham
    County Commissioners have served as tremendous advocates for the organization, publicly
    endorsing our work and privately providing tremendous guidance to staff members.

    In April 2017, Student U, in partnership with Self-Help, officially purchased the W.G. Pearson
    Center (WGPC) from the Durham Public Schools. In addition to private money raised for
    the purchase, Durham County agreed to provide $4.25 million to support the remediation
    and renovation of WGPC. An official Memorandum of Understanding is currently being
    written between Durham County and Student U regarding how this funding will enhance
    the partnership. WGPC, a historic school building and a central landmark on the Fayetteville
    Corridor, is adjacent to the Fayette Place apartments and the future stop for the potential
    Durham-Orange Light Rail. With North Carolina Central University, the Lincoln Community
    Health Center, and the Hayti Heritage Center within blocks, Student U at WGPC will become a
    critical part of the Hayti Community, joining with other community institutions and individuals
    to advocate for equitable community improvements and continued community pride.

    Student U is committed to utilizing the WGPC in a manner that both honors its history in the Hayti community and best serves Durham. At the WGPC, Student U will continue to provide its holistic afterschool programming. As a result of the additional space, Student U will be able to collaborate with the Durham community to expand the reach of its best practices to better serve the citizens of Durham County.

    Expanded impact is expected to include:

    • Directly serving at least 33% more students in the next three years.
    • Enhancing leadership development opportunities for students and parents.
    • Creating an innovation hub to integrate best practices in to the school system.
    • Creating collective impact partnerships with other community non-profits.
  • Student U Start-Up Advisory Committee - 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.

    In 2005, a group of fourteen community leaders convened at the home of Tony and Teddie Brown. School Board members, representatives from University of North Carolina, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University, and Durham Academy administrators sat at a table and dreamt of a new way to empower Durham Public School students to own their education. Mary Williams, Amanda Dorsey, and Dan Kimberg, three college students, shared their commitment to working with the community to build a sustainable and impactful organization. Guided by what they learned from Tony Brown’s Social Entrepreneurship class and their work in education both locally and abroad, the three students facilitated a conversation about dreams, brilliance, and the spread of joy. Under the leadership of this fourteen-person Start-Up Advisory Committee, a program began to form. With core values as its foundation and a crazy dream as its objective, Student U was created by Durham and for Durham. 

    Members of the Start-Up Advisory Committee:

    • Beth Anderson 
    • Lynn Blanchard 
    • Tony Brown 
    • Heidi Carter 
    • Anthony L. Clay
    • Chena Flood 
    • Leslie Holdsworth 
    • Bela Kussin 
    • David Malone 
    • Eric Mlyn
    • Omega Curtis Parker
    • Jan Riggsbee
    • Steve Schewel
    • Michael Ulku-Steiner

    This passionate group of individuals committed countless hours to the development of Student U. Without receiving compensation or any official recognition, the committee did whatever was needed to ensure the successful creation of Student U. Major accomplishments include: 

    • Listening to the community and deciding that rather than be a part of an already established national network, Student U would instead become its own organization. 
    • Solidifying Durham Academy as Student U’s fiscal agent and host. 
    • Creating the original curriculum, system for recruitment and acceptance of students, and teacher training model. 
    • Agreeing to raise a full year of funding prior to advertising the organization to potential students or teachers. 

    Five members of the original Start-Up Advisory Committee went on to serve on the Student U Board of Directors, including Bela Kussin. Bela successfully led Student U through the transition of becoming its own 501(c)(3) and then served as the chair of the Board of Directors for three years. Most members of the original committee are still connected to the organization in meaningful ways today. All are continuing to spread the energy and limitless imagination that first defined Student U in their respective communities.

  • Writing The Next Chapter

    Writing The Next Chapter
    by Francis Dela Cruz

    Our future is waiting to be written. As part of the first class of Student U, I, along with my peers, have seen the evolution of Student U. I’ve seen the weekly tutoring opportunities turn into daily afterschool enrichment with Academic Power Hour and clubs at what is now Student U’s new permanent home, our home: the W.G. Pearson Center. I’ve witnessed many of Mr. Kimberg’s and Ms. Z’s speeches and heard as the language has shifted from what we hope to accomplish to what we have accomplished.  I’ve seen students become teachers. And, I have seen four Student U classes graduate from high school. Our past has been written, and it is filled with joy, excellence and hope. Now, it is time to pick up our pens again.

    Because for the next 10 years, this Student U Community of ours will continue to grow and create the traditional and nontraditional leaders of tomorrow. In the next 5 years, we will have about 200 college graduates. In the next 10 years, we’ll have double that. We have families and partners at every corner of Durham. We will have leaders all over Durham with all the wisdom and skills they’ve learned from their experience at Student U.

    Through my time with Student U, I have learned one important philosophy about leadership. Leadership takes a variety of forms. From running companies, to running for office. From taking care of your siblings while earning a college degree to giving up your spot so somebody else can join the game. You have the power to shape what your leadership will become.  

    Imagine what will happen when all of us take the initiative to invest in our own communities wherever we are. I see each and every one of us carrying the 6 values to places that have never heard of such things. Look to the person next to you. I’m going to remind you of our 6 values. Discover your best self. Respect yourselves and others. Share your brilliance. Dream fearlessly. Achieve greatness. And Energize your community. Whoever you’re looking at, they’re probably living some of these values, or maybe it’s their first time hearing them. Either way, that person is capable of living any of these values. And if you ever find yourself alone, with no one beside you to bring the Student U model along. Go and stand in front of a mirror and there, you’ll find a person that’s capable and courageous enough to share the brilliance of our community.

    I have a dream that some of us will bring this Student U model of a collaborative and believing community to places that need a little change. The past decade readied us for this.

    At the end of these next 10 years, I see someone else standing where I am right now, reflecting on the past 10 years. That person will talk of Student U students standing up for what they believe is right. Of students who followed their passion in the arts, sciences, and music. Of students who made living in Durham more accessible. Of a Durham, where brilliance is shared, where greatness is possible, where dreaming fearlessly is not shut down, where the community energizes other communities, and where its people discover their best selves even when all the odds are against them.

    Pick up your pens, the next ten years start now. 

  • Student U’s model spreads to Gastonia

    Student U’s successful model of helping students reach their full potential has spread to Gastonia. Three dozen students in west Gastonia who will start sixth grade in the fall have become trailblazers in a bold new program called the Dream Center Academy. Organized by the nonprofit Dream Center of Gaston County, it’s a summer enrichment and after-school tutoring program aimed at helping selected students reach their full potential. The goal is for it to eventually grow and involve as many as 350 students at a time.

    The model for the entire venture has been modeled after Student U. Dream Center leaders first visited us two years ago and began planning to implement it in Gastonia. Over a decade, we have achieved proven results and have helped students develop better attitudes toward school and academic achievement while also showing greater social development. While our mission is to create a Durham where all children are succeeding, it is also part of our goal to support the development and implementation of practices in schools and other settings.

    Read Full Article Here