In the wake of a recent high-profile $1.25 million federal grant to Durham Public Schools, an unlikely high school student emerged as a key spokesperson.
Moses Richards, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Hillside High, said he was shy until the end of 5th grade, when he joined Building Opportunities and Overtures in Science and Technology (BOOST), a Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership program designed to engage underrepresented minorities and economically disadvantaged students in the sciences.
The success of BOOST is one factor that leaned in Durham’s favor in the intense competition for the federal grant, aimed at closing academic achievement gaps, particularly among minorities. Durham was one of only three school districts to receive the award, of 14,000 districts nationwide.
Richards’ articulate support for BOOST, at the award announcement ceremony, won over at least one important advocate: After seeing his presentation, Governor Beverly Perdue recruited Richards to work for her this summer.
“What made a difference for me in BOOST was building bonds with others and belonging to a crew,” Richards said. “I also had a lot of adults believing in me. BOOST kept us engaged and gave us opportunities to build leadership skills. I never had a real job before I became a BOOST Junior Coach.”
In that capacity, Richards joined the BOOST Scholars on a trip this weekend to Washington, D.C., where the students met with science writers, advocates and communication specialists.
David Stein, BOOST Program Coordinator and Senior Education Partnership Coordinator in the Office of Community Affairs, said BOOST doesn’t just have an impact on students like Richards.
“The BOOST program is benefiting the Duke community as much as Durham,” Stein said. “Three-time BOOST mentor Alethea Duncan, a winner of a Sammie Award for her outreach work, noted at the Samuel DuBois Cook Society celebration that her work with the BOOST Scholars has helped her grow personally as much as she has helped them.”
BOOST is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, with additional support from Duke President Richard Brodhead and Chancellor for Health Affairs Victor Dzau.