The State of Student U

State of Student U 2022

Want to know what it’s like for students in Durham right now?

Watch the full conversation of The State of Student U to hear Student U staff and Durham Public Schools Board of Education Chair, Bettina Umstead, reflect on the state of education in Durham. Donate to Student U

We have been grateful to have students back in school buildings this year, but we continue to see the structural inequities that have long existed in education. These inequities have been further exposed by the new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that public school supporters and partners will watch this conversation to learn about the current experiences of our students and staff and discuss how we can continue to build a Durham where all students succeed.

Watch the video above to hear from Student U staff for their reflections on the state of education in Durham, as well as Student U’s plans for continuing to increase our impact in pursuit of a Durham where all students succeed, including our next major project at The W.G. Pearson Center. This event was an online conversation about the current educational experiences of our students and how Student U is supporting them, their families, and educators while growing into our mission with programming that reaches more Durham students and families. Join us in reflecting on how we can all work together to create better conditions for our students to succeed in their educational journeys.


Who you will hear from:

Amy Salo
Student U Interim Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Elena Maina
Student U Program Director Michelle Norwood
Student U Associate Director of High School Programming Andrea Rodriguez
Student U Community Engagement Coordinator Bettina_RP-1+(2)


Bettina Umstead
Durham Public Schools Board of Education Chair GetImage


Scott Morrison
Elon University Associate Professor

Here are the key takeaways from our conversation:

What have we seen students and families needing this school year? 
  • Students need great teachers.
  • Families need mental health support. Read the Onward white paper.
  • Students need affirming culturally responsive environments.
Watch the entire answer from Bettina Umstead and Elena Maina to this question.
How has Student U been supporting students this school year in addressing these needs?
  • We are focusing on improving and sharing our approach to supporting our students AND families by incorporating more opportunities for intergenerational programming and sharing of best practices. At the beginning of the school year, we constructed Durham Public Schools’ initial training for Student Success Coaches based on our ‘Advocate’ model.
  • We are dedicated to incorporating more robust mental wellness and social and emotional structures in our work and engaging our community in this work. We have now trained other organizations, school leaders, students, and families on restorative justice practices.
  • We remain committed to creating affirming environments that allow students to develop positive racial identities. We will implement a new full-scale curriculum, written by local educators, this summer.
Watch the entire answer from Michelle Norwood to this question. 
What is next for Student U? 
  • Student U hired Andrea Rodriguez as the Family Engagement Coordinator to design, implement, and evaluate family programming and to promote advocacy.
  • Student U was recently recommended by Durham Public Schools to participate as part of a five-year research project led by FHI 360, which focuses specifically on racial equity in math education.
  • Student U is collaborating with the North Carolina Integrated Care for Kids and the ABC Science Collaborative on a workgroup to address the mental health crisis in six counties across North Carolina.
  • Student U is planning for and fundraising to renovate The W.G. Pearson Center’s former elementary school kitchen into a fully functional commercial-grade commissary kitchen to support culinary entrepreneurs. Learn more by reading the case for support.
Watch the entire answer from Amy Salo and Andrea Rodriguez to this question. 


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