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Juniors Dive into Urban Ministries Partnership; Senior Service Challenge Participants Document Seniors Citizens’ Stories
Story by Kathy McPherson

Community service is returning to the forefront at Durham Academy as the COVID-19 pandemic has lessened its impact on school life, and students at the Upper School sprang into action in the opening days of this school year.

DA’s junior class — the Class of 2024 — is partnering this year with Urban Ministries of Durham for community engagement. Upper School computer science teacher Julian Cochran, a lead advisor for the Class of 2024, said students chose to partner with Urban Ministries “because they could volunteer to work on-site or work away from Urban Ministries campus to support their mission of ending homelessness in Durham.”

As part of the Upper School’s Cavalier Kickoff activities, members of the junior class served breakfast to about 150 people at Urban Ministries on Aug. 24. Back on campus, DA juniors prepared sandwiches and casseroles, which were donated to Urban Ministries while some of their classmates held a car wash to help offset the cost of purchasing ingredients for some of the food they prepared. 

“We took six large casseroles and about 100 sandwiches to Urban Ministries,” Cochran said. The class also led a drive at Lower School, Middle School and Upper School to collect non-perishable food and gently used household items for Urban Ministries.

“We earned $115 from our car wash on the 24th, and I took a team of eight students to serve breakfast that day,” said Upper School English teacher Kat Posada, who is also a lead advisor for the junior class. “It was a super rewarding experience for all of us. It was a pleasure to be able to support such a great organization in so many ways.” 

While many of their classmates were on Senior Challenge in the North Carolina mountains, 12 members of the Class of 2023 chose to remain in Durham and be involved in the Senior Service Project.

“It was an excellent opportunity for students to meet local senior citizens in Durham, learn about their incredible lives and record those stories for posterity,” said Upper School English and art history teacher Jordan Adair, one of the leaders of the Senior Service Project.

The DA students interviewed senior citizens at the Durham Center for Senior Living, wrote about their experiences and prepared oral history booklets for their new friends.

“What they learned is that in the seeming ordinary lives of total strangers are some of the most extraordinary experiences,” Adair said. “I think the students came out of it with a far greater respect for the local community and the importance of reaching out and connecting with it.”