The Bull City Scholars Program provides the opportunity for undergraduate students at Duke University to partake in a mentor-mentee relationship with students at Neal Middle School through tutoring both within classes and during after school programs. This relationship provides additional academic and social support for underprivileged students in the surrounding Durham community. Also, this program instills in undergraduate students a greater understanding of educational disparities present within Durham Public Schools through participation in a house course and service learning engagement at Neal Middle School.
Thus far, the Bull City Scholars Program has successfully established relationships with Neal Middle School administration, and undergraduate University Scholars have begun working with students on a weekly basis. The undergraduate Duke students have started assisting teachers in math classes by working with students on a more individualized basis, targeting the specific strengths and weaknesses of those students. And mentoring sessions have begun during the after-school program at Neal Middle School, during which University Scholars provide additional homework assistance while striving to develop mentor-mentee relationships with the students.
The house course is meant to prepare future members of the Bull City Scholars program for tutoring in Durham Public Schools. The course is geared towards learning about barriers to college access and models of service-learning. The course features frequent conversations about the development and implementation of the tutoring/mentoring program in local middle schools. By engaging with readings, class discussions, guest speakers, and a variety of media, students begin to understand the history of public education in the city of Durham, the demographic and socioeconomic shifts that have impacted the community over the past 20 years, and the particular challenges to college access that students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds face.
The Bull City Scholars program hopes to further develop its relationship with Neal Middle School. A key guideline of the program is providing consistency so as membership grows the club will require mentors to commit to tutoring weekly. To further the goal of consistency the program may begin pairing mentors and mentees for three years; this timeline will allow Bull City Scholars to take the house course during their freshman year and begin tutoring sophomore year, staying with their mentee for the entirety of their middle school time. The Bull City Scholars Program may also expand to several other underprivileged schools in the area if member size allows it. The future of the program is malleable though, keeping in touch with the program’s goal of providing help in the way the middle schoolers need it, not coming in with predisposed assumptions.