By Michael Ulku-Steiner
Head of School
For more than seven decades, Durham Academy has attracted families seeking to make the most of their children’s talent and potential.
For more than five of those decades, DA has offered tuition assistance to families who could not otherwise afford to enroll their children.
This year, we have invested more than $2 million in financial aid. Why?
Because we believe that an excellent independent school — with its combination of academic vigor, extracurricular opportunities and life-changing relationships — has unique capacity to maximize human potential.
Because we believe that extraordinarily promising, ambitious, driven students live in every neighborhood in Durham and beyond. Durham Academy is committed to helping children achieve their dreams and we have the ability to remove barriers that might limit student potential.
Because we believe in the power of engagement. When students and their families engage actively in the school community, they grow toward moral, happy, productive lives. When Durham Academy engages (sincerely, humbly, in reciprocal partnerships) with the broader community, we can multiply this process.
And because we believe that excellence and diversity are inextricably intertwined. Our Board of Trustees endorsed the Durham Academy Diversity Mission Statement a decade ago:
Diversity enlivens, improves and enriches the intellectual and social environment of an academic community and encompasses all aspects of humanity including racial identity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, age and gender identity. We are committed to an ongoing process to increase the diversity of our community and to implement policies, programs and practices under which all members of our community feel welcomed, empowered, responsible and safe. Amidst our diversity we stand united in the pursuit of academic excellence and development of individual capabilities.
This fall, we’re happy to launch a partnership with Students to Scholars (S2S). S2S aims to provide children of promise “with the opportunity to be educated in the rigorous academic and culturally diverse environment of partner independent schools.” Durham Academy joins Duke School, Triangle Day School and Carolina Friends School in this effort — all four schools are committed to opening doors to the most academically ambitious students in Durham.
Already, we’re encouraged by the promise of these potential applicants. Having met several times with S2S founder Jeanne Langley, DA Middle School Director Jon Meredith and I have been impressed by the strategic evolution of the program, the high expectations for parent involvement, the quality of the after-school tutoring provided at the Boys and Girls Club, and the capacity of these students to contribute to our classrooms and community. We look forward to learning more about several S2S applicants this fall — and to competing in moral, happy, productive ways with our neighbor schools to find the best matches for Durham Academy.
Already, an outside funder has joined this effort. Thanks to a link with DA parent of alumni Jim Cunningham, the Bruce J. Heim Foundation (BJHF) has committed grant funding to support need-based scholarships for S2S children who enroll at Durham Academy. The work of the BJHF harmonizes perfectly with those of DA and S2S; from their website: “The Foundation hopes that financial assistance will allow the recipients to improve, develop and concentrate on their talents.”
This exciting partnership with S2S harmonizes perfectly with our strategic plan. We are expanding our partnerships with the local community while making a Durham Academy education accessible to families who may not otherwise be able to join our school. We see this as a win-win-win for promising students, for DA’s classrooms and community, and for Durham’s Boys and Girls Clubs.
We at DA look forward to being a part of that journey.