Together we are a beacon for a brighter future.
In the pursuit of a flourishing future for all, collaboration is key. At The W.G. Pearson Center, we unite with organizations, businesses, individuals, and youth to actively shape this brighter reality. With an atmosphere that exudes hope and optimism, our center stands as a beacon of possibility.
Owned and managed by Student U, a dedicated Durham nonprofit, The W.G. Pearson Center is committed to spreading its influence. Join us in amplifying our impact by infusing your energy and illumination into this space. Become a beacon of positive change.
William Gaston Pearson empowered young Black students with a thirst and demand for the rigorous and enriching education they deserved until the end of his career. Pearson spent his lifetime working to increase opportunities for those around him, and the building named for him has continued to house his value of education, fierce belief in all students, and hope of a better Durham ever since.
The Center was originally built in 1928 as a historically Black elementary school during segregation in Durham. In 2017, the building was renovated and revitalized. Now walking into The W.G. Pearson Center almost 100 years after first being built, still feels sacred. You can feel the power of Pearson's legacy and the students of the past and the potential of students of the future.
Meet The Team
Designed by George Watts Carr, Sr. the W.G. Pearson Elementary School was built in 1928. It is one of the most impressive of the 1920s-1930s era school buildings, both in terms of the building architecture and the relation of the building to the site and the surrounding neighborhood, as seen from these blueprints.
The 1982 Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory describes Pearson as having “one of the most sophisticated exterior designs for a school building in Durham,” with a carved stone surround at its entrance and a copper cornice along the roofline.
The W.G. Pearson Elementary School was named a national School of Excellence in 1986 by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. The principal responsible for Pearson’s success was John Howard. When interviewed by the Durham Morning Herald, Howard said the secret to their success was weekly collaboration “to agree on what they will teach, when and how.” He continued, “They decide what works and what doesn’t. Teachers are accountable to each other. Their classrooms are not islands.”
The W.G. Pearson school building was extensively renovated in 2007 after the W.G. Pearson Elementary School relocated to a new campus farther south. The school was then opened as the W. G. Pearson Magnet Middle School and was touted for drawing gifted students interested in the arts.
After the W.G. Pearson Magnet Middle School closed, Durham Public School opened the W.G. Pearson Center which was used for DPS offices. It also housed Student U programing and offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
In 2017, with the support of Self-Help, Durham County Government, and other project partners, Student U began the renovation process of its permanent home at The W.G. Pearson Center. By becoming a permanent resident of The W.G. Pearson Center Student U will enhance and expand current programming and continue to improve educational outcomes for Durham students.
In the fall of 2018, The W.G. Pearson Center re-opened. The W.G. Pearson Center will be a youth-centered space that will house activities and programs that enrich the lives and outcomes of young people in Durham. The Center will be accessible to the surrounding community of neighbors and organizations.