June 13, 2018

Jaylyn Barbee always dreamt of becoming a doctor, ever since his father passed away in 2007 from heart complications.

But when Barbee arrived at Duke University as an undergraduate student last fall, he also developed a fascination with computers. He is currently pursuing a Duke degree in computer science, with hopes of one day tying together his career interests in medicine and computer science.

Jaylyn Barbee with his mother at his Emily K Center graduation. Photo courtesy of Jaylyn Barbee.

Before becoming a Duke computer science student, Barbee was a young student at the Emily K Center of Durham, a nonprofit college access program that connects students in elementary through high school to resources, tutoring programs and mentorship opportunities. In 2013, as a high school freshman at City of Medicine Academy, Barbee enrolled in the Emily K Center’s Scholars to College program, which provides high school students with the necessary tools and resources to successfully apply to college and succeed as a college student.

Barbee was looking for structure, guidance and leadership opportunities as he prepared for college. And his efforts to prepare himself paid off – In 2017, Barbee and his 29 classmates in the Scholars to College program received a total of 171 college acceptances into 69 schools nationwide, and they were awarded a total of $11 million in grants and scholarships. Barbee was one of two Scholars to College students that chose to attend Duke University.

“I always know that we can fall back on the Emily K Center for academic and professional support,” Barbee said. “The career exploration events and free academic seminars I was offered in high school have helped me become and remain successful here at Duke University. The center has also supported me as my career interests have changed.”

This past year, Duke employee donations through Duke’s Doing Good in the Neighborhood campaign supported the Emily K Center’s Scholars to College program. Campaign funding supported program initiatives such as free ACT/SAT prep courses for students in 10th grade and workshops that helped Scholars to College students write their essays for college applications and build their resumes.

Scholars to College also hosts events throughout the year for students such as career exploration days, when students meet with local professionals to learn about different career paths and steps they should take to achieve their goals.

While in eighth grade, Durham students apply with their families to become a Scholars to College program participant. On average, 30 students graduate from Scholars to College every spring.

“It is most rewarding to work with the Scholars to College participants daily,” said Sara Askey, communications and external affairs specialist at the Emily K Center. “In many testimonies, students did not see college as a possibility without the resources and tools provided to them from the Scholars to College program.”

Story by Alyzia McAlmon

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