At-risk students attend Durham private school for free

Posted December 10, 2009

— Family income should not determine a child's destiny. That's the premise behind Union Independent School, a new private school that opened this year in Durham.

Many of its students come from some of the poorest neighborhoods.

“We think we can take some of the kids most at-risk and make them some of the best and brightest,” said Rev. Kenneth Hammond with Union Baptist Church.

Students attend Durham private school for free Students attend Durham private school for free

Thanks to private donations and contributions, including $2 million from Union Baptist Church, the school has 74 students in kindergarten through second grade. The students are chosen by lottery and attend for free.

“Many times you have kids that live in these communities and they’re very bright, and yet, they just need the extra support and challenge,” Hammond said.

Many of the school’s students come from Northeast Central Durham – an area of high crime and gang activity. The median income is $18,000.

It would cost $11,000 for the students to attend Union Independent. They have state-of-the-art computers, certified teachers and follow the North Carolina course of study. The school day starts at 7:45 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.

“It gives us an opportunity to address not only core academic areas, but also look at entrepreneur education, character development (and) the arts,” Hammond said.

Union Independent leaders said they hope to test new ideas to inspire urban youth.

“We know if we put the right strategies in place that we will make sure each one of these children will grow,” said teacher Agatha Brown.

Union Independent School plans to be a K through 8 school, adding a new incoming class each year. It will have all grades by 2015.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • teacher-mom Dec 11, 2009

    It sounds good to me. I have long been an advocate of longer school days. This way children can have a real lunch and some PE times as well. They are not shuttled to before school and after school programs. I think it sounds like a wonderful idea. I wish them all the best. I really like the starfish story.

  • anti-Hans Dec 11, 2009

    Do any of you know the starfish story? Let's hope this school saves a lot of starfish.

    Two kids are walking down the beach, and a bunch of starfish have washed up on the beach and are dying. One of the kids picks up a starfish and tosses him back into the ocean. The 2nd kid looks at the first and asks why he is doing that, because there is no way he can possibly help all the starfish on the beach. The boy answers, "No, but to THAT starfish I made a difference".

    Find your starfish people and make a difference. I know nothing about this school other than the article, but why be critical? If it helps one underprivileged child, it will be worth it.

  • anti-Hans Dec 11, 2009

    I cannot beleive the venom on this story. A historically balck church opens a school to try and HELP the community by starting when the children are young, offering these kids the CHANCE to get out and make themselves better, have better lives, and in turn, they will pass it on to others to make the world a better place. And the majority of you sit here and criticize?

    It is private and not your money. Give it a rest. Blacks have a higher drop out rate, higher teen pregnancy rates, higher crime rates than whites - and here is group trying to CHANGE that. I am a conservative white educated male, but this is change I can vote for.

  • mramorak Dec 11, 2009


  • NCMom1 Dec 11, 2009

    snowpenguin4eva, 6pm?? That's insane. So when is it that these parents actually see their children?

    Its really no different from a child in before and after school programs because their parents work from 8-5. By the time you get to daycare is 5:30-6:00. The only difference is the kids are not shuffled around before and after regular school hours....

  • juchushu Dec 10, 2009

    6pm?? That's insane. So when is it that these parents actually see their children?

  • me2you Dec 10, 2009

    YOUR is NOT the same as You're...please learn the difference people.

  • magsgundah Dec 10, 2009

    Because ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students who get a B, just have NO DESIRE to learn.

  • NCMom1 Dec 10, 2009

    G-man "They're going back home to same situation they now have so the education portion will be of only minimal benefit."

    I wonder if the reason the school day is so long. It keeps the kids out of the streets and away from mindless tv and video games for the better part of the day and focused on the positive. Hopefully the extended day of positive activity is enough to ward off the bad influences that they live around.

  • babbleon Dec 10, 2009

    Agh - I just read more of your comments, StefanyJoy - "prior academic achievement?" You really did not read the article, did you? This is a Kindergarten to 2nd grade (currently), with plans to become K-8, as each of the current grades age. Get a CLUE!