Middle School Program

You are brilliant. You are destined for greatness. You belong here. 

Middle School is one of the most challenging times of your life. Student U is here to meet you, affirm your innate talents, and provide support to help you dream fearlessly as you navigate life. When you join Student U, you are joining a community of students, families, and staff who will advocate for you and who care about you deeply. Over the next three years and beyond, our students will tour colleges, receive academic support, create art, become leaders, take exciting field trips, and ultimately have the opportunity to discover their best selves.

But for many of our Middle School students and families, the most lasting impact will be the relationships they form with fellow Student U students and family members along the way. Student U students come from all over Durham, and Student U provides a safe space for long-lasting friendships to form between students that they would otherwise not be able to have.

We invite you to become part of our family and community. Our commitment to you is to meet you where you are.

Apply to join Student U

We are committed to walking with our students and their parents on their journey through college and beyond to reach our ultimate goal. Students are nominated as fifth-graders by Durham Public School guidance counselors, teachers, and community members to apply for Student U. Students are selected through a lottery to become the newest dreamers. Students who are rising sixth-graders who will be first in their families to attend college and/or students who qualify for free or reduced lunch should apply.


Beginning the summer before their sixth grade year, our students attend Middle School Summer Academy, where they receive instruction in the four core subject areas: English, math, science, and Global Connect (similar to Social Studies). Students also choose elective classes crafted off of their teachers’ passions, talents, and skills. These classes can range from dance to theater to poetry to yoga to astronomy. All classes at our Summer Academy are small – approximately 8-12 students – so that each student receives individualized academic attention and support. Low-income students lose up to 25% of the information gained the previous school year during the summer months (The Case Against Summer Vacation). Not only does this programming combat the summer learning loss that many students who do not receive summer enrichment experience, but students also enter the next school year feeling more prepared and confident because they have already been exposed to the grade’s content. Students also attend weekly field trips, during which they learn about their local communities, explore different career opportunities, tour local colleges, and engage in community service.

Summer student enrichment includes:

  • Four core subject areas: Students receive instruction in English, Math, Science, and Global Connect.
  • Elective class: Students choose an elective class such as dance, theater, yoga, and visual arts.
  • Weekly field trips: Students attend weekly field trips to learn about local communities, explore different career opportunities, tour local colleges, and engage in community service.
  • Teacher advisors: Teachers are matched with a small group of students to serve as their advisor.

During the summer, we are proud to partner with the NCDPI through the USDA Summer Food Services Program to provide healthy meals at no cost to our students. 

School Year

During the school year, middle school students board Durham Public School buses Monday through Thursday after-school and come to the W.G. Pearson Center for three hours of after-school programming and enrichment. The after-school program mirrors the structures, values, and culture already well-established in Student U’s Summer Academy. Programming includes study sessions, academic goal setting, intense academic remediation, academic and arts clubs, and community building.  Perhaps just as beneficial as the academic support are the close and supportive relationships they are able to continue building with their Student U peers and teachers throughout the school year.

Year-round student enrichment includes:

  • After-school programming and enrichment: Students attend three hours of daily programming to connect each student with resources, activities, and programs that will support students in individual academic growth. 
  • Study Rotations: Students complete their homework and work towards their goals on their personal Achieve Greatness Action Plan.
  • Clubs: Students focus on leadership, STEM, athletics, or the arts. Club classes not only allow our students to engage in activities they enjoy, but also push them to discover their best selves by trying new things.
  • Monthly phone calls and a family conference once a semester: Staff ensure that parents, students and Student U function as a team to support students.
21st Century Community Learning Centers

21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant provides significant funding for Student U's Middle School Year Round Program.

Middle School Opportunities

Apply for Youth Savings Program


“After a decade of being a Student U student, I came back to teach sixth grade English. Each sixth grader had a gleam of uncertainty in their eyes and a quiet excitement in their souls. I could feel them, their presence, and their persona. Each and every one of my kids is unique and bright. I saw myself in them. I saw my friends in them. I saw who they were and who they would become and for the first time ever, I felt something inside of me: passion. A will and an excitement like none other, something that can’t be reproduced or replicated.”

– Nelson Jared Lopez, UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate