The W.G. Pearson Center

In 2017, in partnership with the Durham Public Schools, Durham County, and Self-Help Credit Union, Student U purchased and began renovating The W.G. Pearson Center. By becoming a permanent resident of The W.G. Pearson Center, the building that has housed our programming and staff since 2013, Student U will enhance its current programming and continue to improve educational outcomes for Durham students.

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 remaining accessible to the surrounding community of neighbors and organizations. 

The W.G. Pearson Center Tenants

Student U is seeking 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 to enable all people to thrive. 

If your organization believes in the potential power of this vision for the WGPC and can commit to the requirements of The Center partners outlined in the questionnaire linked below, please complete the form and return it to Amy Salo, Student U’s Chief Operating Officer ( at your earliest convenience. We will be reviewing applications on a rolling basis, including inviting applicants to engage in further conversation about space needs, potential partnerships, and financial investment. We are excited to achieve our goal of having the right tenant combination and operating the building at full capacity. We anticipate that tenants will be able to move in as early as September of 2018.

WGPC Space Partners Application.doc

How You Can Use The Space:

The W.G. Pearson Center should be a beacon that radiates throughout our neighborhood and the Durham community. Whether for an afternoon, a week, or an extended time, we hope you consider The W.G. Pearson Center for your space needs. WGPC Event Space Application.doc

Spaces we have available to reserve and rent:



Training Rooms

Tech Lab

Board Room

Conference Room 

(Pictures not yet available)


Outdoor Field 

The W.G. Pearson Center Legacy

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 those 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 then leading schools, William Gaston Pearson became known as “Durham’s Black Superintendent.” Throughout his career, Pearson empowered young black students with a thirst and demand for the rigorous and enriching education they deserved. Pearson spent his lifetime working to increase opportunities for those around him. Each year 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, as previously named, in 1986 when it was honored as 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 they 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 the rich history of The Center, these are just two examples of the many stories of heroes, academic success, and advocacy for a better Durham. As we continue this work of 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.