By Lauren Bunch
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Crime, poverty and certain degrees of poor achievement in schools are ambushing minority communities across the nation. Factors such as these are intimidating, as they deprive some children of a fair, balanced shot at a quality education (especially if some have unrecognized learning disabilities).
Thankfully, this unfortunate truth is not spot-on for all children of Northeast Central Durham.
Breylon Smith, program director at Durham’s Global Scholars Academy, says, “I have been with the school since July 2011 and October will make my third year with the school. I was given the opportunity to serve in this role after I first served as a Teacher’s Assistant and Extended Day Teacher. I was an undergraduate when I began in 2009. Toward the end of my time in the Master of Public Administration program at North Carolina Central University, under the direction of Attorney Ronald G. Penny, I sharpened my understanding of leadership, administration and ethical practices in public service. I was comfortable seeking a leadership role in any public, private or non-profit arena. When offered this position, I was truly excited to take the helm and game plan to impact the education preparation and lives of young people.”
Launched as Union Independent School, the school “opened its doors in July 2009 as a tuition-free, year-round, extended laboratory K-2 elementary school.”
It was created by a partnership between Union Baptist in Durham and the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
But around the time of Smith’s appointment, the institution became a public charter school, and currently serves grades K-5.
Smith says, “Our objective is to provide each of our students with an opportunity and access to quality education. We believe every student can learn. We want our students to meet and exceed expectations.” The Program Director is responsible for the organization of enrichment classes, grant proposals, human resource management and assisting in discipline management. It is a role in which Smith is very comfortable in executing. The Global Scholars Academy allows the school to operate from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Smith says this combats out-of-school time a student may normally have in which he or she may be tempted to engage in unfavorable activities. “Our students may face external distractions in life, but in my experience and interaction with them, I know they are resilient and inspiring young people.” He insists.
“Because we house an Extended Day learning environment,” he explains, “our students are able to have interventions that impact their academic and social development. I truly believe that, with sustained support, we will continually work to improve the future outcomes of our students in academic and social areas.”
Students of the Global Scholars Academy are predominately African-American, though a percentage of their peers are Latino, biracial and Caucasian.
Smith says, “Students arrive for breakfast and attend their morning meeting with the entire school. They hear from the Head of School, teachers and other students. Afterwards, they make their way to their morning classes, which may include language arts, mathematics, or reading centers. Subsequently, they attend other classes such as Physical Education (PE), Mandarin, and then lunch. Then, students may have another PE class, or continued instruction. From afternoon to dismissal, another host of enrichment classes are offered such as public speaking, broadcasting and journalism, art, current events or library/media. Toward the end of the day, students are gathered for dismissal. Students are encouraged to read until dismissed to their parents/guardians.”
He continues, “Our charter school has a wide range of classes not offered by other schools. Flexibility of scheduling and small numbers increases the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with each student. Our global studies and financial literacy classes prepare our students to recognize the world around them and how to operate within it. Parts of our extended day are used for remediation and, if necessary, homework completion.”
Smith explains that the plan is to grow the school each year, beginning with the kindergarten class and adding a grade each year until it reaches the goal of K-8 (elementary and middle school).
Lastly, Smith discloses the following, pertaining to entry: “We have a lottery admissions process, which permits anyone to enter, based upon the year’s number of available spaces. Should students not be selected during the lottery, they are placed on a wait-list and notified as space becomes available.”