Building On A Strong Foundation

Student U staff share what they are excited for in their new home at The W.G. Pearson Center.

As we settle into our new home and prepare to welcome students and new partners I am taking a moment to look back on the history of The W.G. Pearson Center to understand the values and vision of the individuals whose legacy we are inheriting by being the stewards of this beautiful building.

Last summer while conducting some community listening sessions to inform our vision for The W.G. Pearson Center, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Pam and Ms. Debra. Both women attended Pearson School and shared stories of students playing softball on the field during the summer and the custodian having a house on the campus to watch over the building. I loved hearing their memories of this building. Every day, as I walk under the W.G. Pearson Elementary School sign etched into the entrance’s concrete, I am reminded that this building, opened in 1928 as the segregated school for Black students, has a rich history and legacy worth knowing, sharing, and preserving.

One of those stories is that the Pearson School, as it was previously referred to, was named a national School of Excellence in 1986 by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. The principal responsible for Pearson’s success was John Howard. 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. We hope that we will do Mr. Howard’s legacy justice as we build on the strong foundation laid before us. 

Join us as we celebrate the history and imagine the future as a community at the Re-Opening event on October 20th at 1pm.  

All the best,

Alexandra Zagbayou

September 1986

Heather WitherspoonWGPMural


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