Mission Reveal: Same Dream. New Mission.

Mission Reveal On Thursday, January 30, 2020, we revealed our NEW MISSION: We empower and equip first-generation college students in Durham Public Schools, their families, and educators to become the leaders that will transform our city.

Thirteen years ago, we made a commitment to walk alongside students and their families through middle school to prepare for college. Now, we have walked with those same students and their families through high school graduations, college graduations, and proudly watched them become agents of change in our community. Together, we have achieved a lot of success and gained much knowledge about what is needed to create a Durham where all students are succeeding.  As we celebrate what we have accomplished alongside 650 students and their families, we acknowledge that it is not enough.

“As a community, we should imagine a day without the need for organizations like Student U. We should dream of a day when all children in Durham receive a rigorous education that prepares them to graduate from high school, and transition to college equipped to graduate. We should imagine a day where that dream doesn’t require extraordinary effort for Black and Brown children. We should dream of a day where we stop gathering to celebrate stories of students “beating the odds,” because we have changed the odds altogether.

We, at Student U, are dreaming of that day.
Our vision is evolving.
We are expanding our work to support that dream. 

We are moving away from seeing ourselves as just a college access program. This is not because college isn’t necessary, but because it is insufficient by itself to be a marker of equity in our community.”

– Alexandra Zabayou, Student U Executive Director

Student U is a community organization that uses the power of education to build a just and equitable Durham. With our new mission, we are imagining what justice can and should look like in our city if we are going to reach our vision of a Durham where all students succeed. We empower and equip first-generation college students in Durham Public Schools, their families, and educators to become the leaders that will transform our city. We support this transformation with an approach that combines three key elements: our whole-families approach to college access and success programming; sharing our best practices in education; and our commitment to supporting student- and family-led advocacy and change efforts in our city. Learn more about our new mission and approach from our Executive Director Alexandra Zagbayou.

Enjoy this story of one of our Student U alumna, Niadiquay Everette, who embodies the essence of who we have been, who we’re becoming and what we believe is possible. Niadiquay is the first in her family to graduate college. She used the power of education and her voice to achieve greatness. Now in the classroom, she is changing the learning environment to ensure one day all students succeed in college and beyond. Partnership Announcement We know that our dreams are much bigger than us. This vision will require a collaborative effort and new and reimagined partnerships. So, we’re starting our re-imagined work with one of our longest partner- Durham Public Schools because this is where our young people are being educated. This partnership enables us to impact more students by leveraging programs we have been building for the past decade. Student U will be partnering with Durham Public Schools and Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University to launch a new pilot program called the Durham Teaching Fellows. This program will recruit and prepare current Durham Public School students of color who, upon completing college, will return to work for Durham Public Schools (DPS) to close the Diversity Gap in teachers. If you are interested in learning more contact Alexandra Zagbayou.

This partnership is ONE of many new programs we will pilot over the next 5 years to grow into our new vision and mission. 

Growing Our Impact

Over the next five years, we will grow our impact from 550 students a year to 8,000 students impacted by supporting 50 new Durham Public School teachers through the Fellows program alone. 

In addition, we will:

  • Provide all parents with opportunities to further their own education 
  • Provide parent education and programming that equips parents to advocate for their children in school 
  • Empower, equip, and support parents and students as they advocate for change. We are starting this now with the school boundaries assignment starting this spring.



The brilliance and successes of Student U’s community
Play Video

The Kendall Family

Play Video

Elijah & Ethan

Play Video

Elliot & Taryn


Get the latest updates within our community