Duke Partners with NCCU, ECU to Assist Public Schools and the Communities They Serve

Group of students in a school hallway holding up backpacks.

Duke, along with colleagues at NCCU and ECU, will lead the charge to bring other universities from across the state into the fold by educating them about these academic partnerships.

“We can’t begin to prepare public school students to be active learners if we don’t ensure they have their basic human rights met. To meet their basic human rights, we need to think about the university’s resources inside and outside schools of education,” says Greenwald.

Calleen Herbert, director of NCCU’s Office of Community Engagement and Service, added: “Our students have the opportunity to participate in an innovative community-engaged participatory research program, be part of the exciting trends within Durham’s community schools, connect their classroom instruction with neighborhood issues, engage in the difficult work of advancing democratic practices, and become a part of a statewide coalition that will prepare North Carolina public-school students for entry into universities such as NCCU.”

Other Netter-sponsored training centers are located at the University of Connecticut, University of Oklahoma, UCLA, University of Binghamton, and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. While they stand alone, this North Carolina partnership employs a more regional strategy.

“This is the first regional center anchored by not one but three higher eds: North Carolina Central University, a public historically Black university, East Carolina University, a public university, and Duke University, a private university. We look forward to learning with and from the regional University-Assisted Community Schools network that this team is building,” said Cory Bowman, associate director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.

The idea to form this partnership began about five years ago when Durham campaigned to bring the community school strategy to its public school system. Currently, the county has three community schools: Club Boulevard Elementary School, Lakewood Elementary School and Fayetteville Elementary School.

At that time, Greenwald and his counterparts at the other two universities began to think about ways to support and expand upon the concept. They landed on the Netter Center for financial assistance to set up the regional training center. The Netter Center provides $50,000 a year for three years, but the center will receive matching funds from Duke Bass Connections, Data+ and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

“Institutions of higher education are deep and vast spaces for resources that, through an interdisciplinary lens, can respond to the needs of public-school communities through teaching, learning, research and service,” says Greenwald. “We have an obligation to think about those communities because those are the future students who will be entering our institutions.”

Duke students already have been involved in the community school concept through research. For example, Duke has a team of students who have developed a data dashboard to help those at Durham’s community schools understand what types of services (i.e., food pantries, spiritual centers, recreation centers, parks and community gardens) are available and where to find them.

The concept not only helps local schools and communities but also students at the universities who are a part of it.

“As an out-of-state Duke student, I initially doubted my ability to connect deeply with Durham’s rich and welcoming culture,” said Drew Greene, a Duke senior. “To my surprise, those worries quickly vanished. Now, in my third year alongside our dedicated Durham cohort, I’ve had the privilege of both witnessing and influencing the growth of the university-assisted community schools movement here, a city that now feels like home.

“Outside of Durham, we’re driving change across the state and country through valuable dialogues and collaborations with those dedicated to reimagining partnerships between universities and their surrounding communities. SRCUACS stands among the champions of this national endeavor, and I look forward to seeing where this journey leads us next.”

The coalition will formally launch on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at noon.  Faculty, staff and students from regional colleges and universities can join the coalition via virtual monthly network calls (Noon-1 p.m.). Information: https://southeastuacs.org/