Coach K helping students reach their college dreams

Posted May 25
Updated May 26

— One Durham program has a 100 percent rate this year of its graduates going on to college.

The Emily Krzyzewski Center, founded by Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski 11 years ago in honor of his late mother, provides tutoring and academic and leadership programs to low-income students to help them get to college.

This year, all 30 graduates achieved that goal, with almost all becoming the first person in their families to attend college.

"My mom never went to high school. She had an eighth-grade education – a cleaning lady. My dad went to two years of high school," said Krzyzewski, who likewise was the first member of his family to get a college education.

"The best way of improving your community is to educate the populace and give them opportunities to advance," he said. "You know one of the great things about this place? Every afternoon, when cars, vans start rolling into this place, kids run out. They run out because it’s an opportunity. And you know what? Our staff is there waiting for them, and they’re smiling, too. What an opportunity."

The impact of the center on its students is hard for them to sum up.

"When I need someone to talk to, if I’m having a bad day, I can come here and talk to anyone, and they can give me advice and just be there for me," Lizet Hernandez said as she wiped away tears. "They’re family to me, and everyone has just been so great here."

"The college process has so much, it’s a huge scope. Navigating would be very challenging," Leonardo Aguilar said. "They have taken a burden off my back and have given all the support and resources that not many students get."

Aguilar will attend the University of Pennsylvania on full scholarship, becoming the first Emily K student ever to get into an Ivy League school. Two others in the class will be the first to attend Duke.

Together, the 30 seniors received 171 acceptances to 69 different colleges, and the majority got enough financial aid to be able to graduate with little or no debt.

Krzyzewski gave them one final assignment before they headed off to the next phase of their lives.

"I’m a person of faith, and to whom much is given, much is expected," he said. "When you’re given an opportunity, you give. Just don’t receive. You be a giver because you’ve been touched by giving along the way.

"(I ask) that, when you finish that education of yours, that you will give."

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  • David Clevenger Jun 6, 10:07 a.m.
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    The Durham community is so lucky to have a man of this caliber constructing programs like this. Coach K is giving these children an opportunity to get an education they would have never otherwise received. We need more leaders like this in the area to make Durham great again!