The Problem

In order to best address the needs of the Durham Public Schools (DPS), it was necessary to first understand the community. Throughout my first three years as a student at Duke University, I observed DPS classrooms and interviewed students, teachers, principals, parents, guidance counselors and school board members. This led to the writing of an environmental needs assessment which focused on both the problem of educating children in Durham as well as programs currently available for youth during the school year and the summer. It became clear that as minority and low income children in Durham move through their middle school years, they are struggling to keep up at school. On a recent end-of-grade test for grades 3 through 8, 64.2% of black students and 59.8% of Hispanic students scored at grade level in reading, as compared with 91.6% for white students. In math, 69.9% of black students and 67.7% of Hispanics, as compared with 93.3% for whites, tested at grade level (Durham Herald-Sun, 9/13/02). Although the environmental needs assessment showed there were many programs in place in Durham to minimize this gap, there were evidently no free academic programs making use of the summer months. After learning about Student U., Superintendent of DPS, Carl Harris, confirmed this need, stating “Durham Public School students will benefit immensely from this program.” My belief in the potential of all children combined with my knowledge that unfortunately, many never have the opportunity to reach this potential, inspired me to begin the journey of starting Student U.

Plan of Action

After remaining funds are secured and another successful year is completed, Student U. will begin to solicit long term support from major corporations, foundations, and individuals. Student U. will also continue to seek institutionalized support, though direct funding and defrayed costs such as donated services, from its collaborative partners. In particular, Durham Academy is planning its next capital campaign, set to launch in 2009. Current plans consider the inclusion of multi-year funding for Student U. as an objective. Durham Academy’s current strategic plan calls for the school to find ways to become a resource to the greater Durham community, and the long-term stability and success of Student U. is key to accomplishing this goal.

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