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Durham middle school for at-risk youth provides 11 years of support

Posted June 5, 2015

— Temidayo Ajasa never imagined he could stand in front of a large crowd and give a speech, but that's exactly what he did Friday at his middle school graduation ceremony.

Ajasa is one of the nine 2015 graduates from Durham Nativity School. Although small, the graduating class is part of a unique setting that allows at-risk youth a chance at success in middle school, high school and college.

The school is a private, nonprofit facility that serves low-income students. Ajasa said it's helped him develop a better work ethic.

"I probably wouldn't be working as hard and be able to go give a graduation speech," he said.

Principal Dan Vannelle says the school receives funding from donors and college prep schools that recruit its students. Students at Durham Nativity don't pay tuition.

But the experience is more than just a middle school. The 11-year program includes support for students during high school and college. Students have small classes and an extended school day, and officials require active parental involvement.

"We have somebody on staff that is our director of graduate support, and she follows them," Vannelle said. "Meets with their advisors, makes sure they are graduating from high school and college. It's very much hands-on."

Ajasa said he hopes to own his own business one day.

"I'm interested in becoming a business owner for an art company because I like to draw," he said

The school opened in 2002 and celebrated its first group of college graduates in the spring of 2013. It has a capacity of 45 students.

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  • Djofraleigh Anderson Jun 5, 2015
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    Another example of how private, non-public schools are doing what the public schools don't, can't or won't do. What is the spending per student at Nativity? What is the teacher pay, administrative pay?