Durham News

Durham school board takes $100K ‘leap of faith’ on ‘Made in Durham’

The Durham Public Schools board voted unanimously last week to give $100,000 to Made in Durham, a nonprofit that wants to serve local disconnected youth.

If benchmarks are met, the same amount will be given next year.

“I’m very happy that the Durham community has taken on this challenge of career readiness and career pipelines for all of our young people, especially the ones who have traditionally not had a fighting chance for a quality career path because of the obstacles and challenges in their lives,” school board member Matt Sears said.

The nonprofit is a public-private partnership with a goal of helping all Durham youth obtain an education and employment with a living wage. The public sector has been asked to fund one-third of the budget, to be split three ways among DPS, Durham County and the city of Durham. The private sector and philanthropy will support the other two-thirds of Made in Durham’s budget.

“We are not flush with funds to do projects like this. What we are doing is taking a leap of faith in building trust with employers in our community,” school board member Natalie Beyer said. “There is no reason employers shouldn’t trust our students. Our students are fantastic.”

The board will hold Made in Durham accountable for results, she added. “We are not in the business of starting nonprofits,” she said.

Made in Durham is a project of MDC, a nonprofit that publishes research and creates programs to expand opportunity and reduce poverty. Made in Durham builds partnerships among educators, employers, local government and civic leaders to address the gap between growing job opportunities in Durham and a local youth population still struggling to obtain an education and employment.

“It’s really to develop an education to career system to give all of Durham’s youth the quality education and training they need to compete for the good jobs in our labor market,” said Julie Mooney, the MDC project director for Made in Durham.

School board member Sendolo Diaminah said Made in Durham helps address issues of poverty and inequality in students’ communities.

“When we talk about concentrated poverty being such an issue for our communities here in Durham and across the country, really what we’re talking about is living in a period where the inequality and wealth is growing, and that the responsibility that all of us have is to really talk about that and to really name that,” he said.

“I think what’s exciting here is…we’re also standing up fiercely and saying to our community, ‘We’re going to fight to say we want more equality, we want more equity. Our kids deserve that,’” Diaminah said.

Owens: caitlinnicoleowens@gmail.com