Middle School Students Energize their Community

On a hot summer day, tucked behind a quiet Durham neighborhood, Burton Park was filled with activity and excitement. With bright teal and purple t-shirts, Student U eighth grade students were easy to spot as they bent down to pick up plastic water bottles, candy wrappers and other pieces of trash littered throughout the park. Hands covered by yellow gloves and holding long trash pickers, these young students modeled the value of energizing one’s community.

The afternoon sun did not stop Student U middle school students from participating in community service trips on Wednesday, June 26, in which each grade immersed itself in a different service activity throughout Durham. Sixth-grade students visited The W.G. Pearson Center to help create garden signs, while seventh-grade students embarked on a scavenger hunt to learn about Durham’s epicenter and identify solutions to local issues. Meanwhile, eighth-grade students teamed up with the environmental nonprofit “Keep Durham Beautiful” to clean up Burton and CR Wood parks.

Student U expects even the youngest of its students, rising 6th graders, to make a difference in their community—to energize it. However, how they energize it looks differently for each student. For My’Kiah, a rising eighth-grade student, energizing her community means taking food to a homeless shelter with her mom. For Jazmyne, another rising 8th grader, it means cleaning up the environment by picking up garbage and planting trees. But Jasmine also said she energizes her community by having her friends’ backs when they need it. 

Even though the eighth-grade students energized their community by picking up trash in a local park, they also recognized that it is not just the physical acts that make a difference. When asked how he energizes his community, rising 8th grader Lester said he tries to make everyone happy by making them laugh with his good jokes. 

Rising eighth grader Zahrah shared her way of energizing her community—hope. 

“[To me], energizing my community is…bringing everybody together and spreading hope.” Zahrah also said that this was one of the reasons why she loves Student U, because she gets to spread hope to different communities in Durham. 

To Student U, energizing your community encompasses the following:

It is not enough to simply be a great student or teacher. We expect all members of our community to take what is learned at Student U and use that knowledge to make a difference in the larger community. This means both serving others and inspiring peers to do the same.


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