Two Duke Students Among The Root's 20 Young Futurists

Leslie Turner and Marcus Benning commended as young black achievers

Senior Marcus Benning and first-year Leslie Turner were chosen as two of 20 named The Root's Young Futurists. The Root, a news, political, and culture site for African-Americans, annually names Young Futurists in commemoration of Black History Month in February to "celebrate the young African-American men and women who are forging a path to future greatness." Young Futurists are between the ages of 16 and 22 who have distinguished themselves in the fields of social activism and justice, enterprise and corporate innovation, science and technology, green innovation, and arts and culture. 

Benning, president of Black Student Alliance, created the Duke Connects Challenge to promote relations between Duke students and Durham residents. Benning also founded the Black Cultural Living Group. Turner, a pre-med student, ran clothing drives for children in Ohio and in the Dominican Republic and is conducting research to find a vaccine for Alzheimer's. She will be traveling to Ghana this summer with Doctors without Borders. 

From The Root:


ACHIEVEMENT:As a freshman he sought to bring equality through community building.

When Marcus Benning won a $500 grant from a Duke University think tank as a freshman, he used that money to create and fund the Duke Connects Challenge, an initiative that solicited proposals from students on how they would improve relations between Duke students and the people living and working in the surrounding town of Durham, N.C.

Merging those two worlds became a primary issue that Marcus would address time and time again in his varying positions in student government and other civic organizations. "I always enter an environment with an eye towards making it a more equitable and just environment for everyone," Marcus explains. That was in year one. As a sophomore, he got Duke administrators to greenlight the Black Cultural Living Group - a designated residential space for students to engage in issues and conversations that affect African Americans.

Marcus credits his knack for community building to his upbringing. "My mother made sure that there were always mentors in my life that would mentor me in ways that she could not. After graduating from Duke in May, Marcus will enroll in law school. He's already gotten offers from the University of Pennsylvania, Duke and Vanderbilt, just to name a few.

CATEGORY: Social Activism and JusticeAGE: 22EDUCATION: Duke UniversityHOMETOWN: Atlanta


Duke BSA President Marcus Benning speaks at the closing of Greek Convocation, 2013.



ACHIEVEMENT: First she helped children in Ohio; next stop, the world.

Ohio native Leslie Turner always knew she wanted to work in medicine. "Since I knew what a job was, I wanted to be a doctor," she said. The first-year pre-med student at Duke University devotes her time to her recently decided cultural anthropology major and her work as a tutor for an ESL program.

Leslie has a passion for service that began in high school. She ran two charitable organizations that provided clothing for homeless teens in Ohio and children in the Dominican Republic. She has been motivated by her own childhood, in which her mother had difficulties supporting four children.

A brilliant student, Leslie has a love of science that took her to a research position on a project to find a vaccine for Alzheimer's. When you hear her plans for the future, it's clear she will find a way to combine her commitments to service and science. This summer, she is headed to Legon, Ghana, to do field research and learn more about Ghanian culture. Eventually she plans to become a cardiologist and work with the organization Doctors Without Borders, telling us, "I'm big on using health care to bridge cultural gaps."

CATEGORY: Science and TechnologyAGE: 19EDUCATION: Duke UniversityHOMETOWN: Columbus, Ohio

To see all the Young Futurists, visit The Root