Presentation: Alexandra Zagbayou – Student U

Durham is an amazing city! And part of the reason is Student U, which was started in 2005 by a group from UNC, NCCU, Duke, Durham Public Schools, and Durham Academy, determined to help Durham Public Schools students reach their full potential.  SU appears to have been the first organization of its kind in the country.

Lois Deloatch introduced Executive Director  Alexandra Zagbayou, just returned from a trip to China, who described SU’s work in a lively talk.  SU lives in what used to be the W. G. Pearson School (named after famed black educator William Gaston Pearson, 1858-1947), where Rotary met this week. The building was acquired and renovations begun in 2017 thanks to public-private partnerships and investments from Durham Public Schools, Durham County, Self-Help and other generous foundations and individuals (SU is now the main tenant). The building was then in a somewhat dilapidated condition (removing asbestos cost some $5 million), but is now fully restored, as Rotarians could see during a brief tour after the meeting. SU is funded byfoundations, corporations, government grants and individual donations.

SU aims to aid low-income, first-generation college-going students from the Durham Public Schools and help them take charge of their lives, sort out their goals — and achieve them, be they college or some other post-secondary qualification. SU takes in 50-60 students each year and walks with those students and families for 11 years to and through college. There is no cost. To date, 100% of SU students have graduated from high school, and they just celebrated their first class of college graduates last year. Students and teachers meet in the summer and after school for academic support and enrichment and to discuss students’ goals and how to achieve them. Should you go to college? Which college? How to minimize student debt? What are other alternatives?

          (Many Thanks for Elise Sharpe, for help)

          – John Staddon

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