Our History

The Achievement Academy of Durham was incorporated in December 2004. The Board of Directors formed in February of 2005 and the organization gained non-profit status in June 2005.

The organization grew out of many years of experience in successfully helping high-risk, impoverished teens earn their GEDs. Before founding the Achievement Academy of Durham, Sandee Washington previously directed the GED and alternative secondary education programs for: Durham Public Schools, the Center for Employment Training sites in both Raleigh and Durham, and the Durham Literacy Center.

Although successful in helping students earn their GEDs, Sandee noticed that her graduates continued to live in poverty. Today’s economy demands postsecondary education for self-sustaining employment with benefits. Even with the financial support (a Pell Grant) to pay for post-secondary education, most GED graduates nationwide lack the additional emotional, social, and academic support necessary for success at the post-secondary level. Instead, they usually take their hard-won GED diploma and join the heartbreaking ranks of the working poor. A lack of post-secondary education results in an inability to rise above a poverty-level income, and removes hope of employment with health insurance and other benefits, which affects not only these workers, but also their children.

After finding that there were no local programs that formally worked with students to attain a GED and go on to postsecondary education, Sandee Washington and others established The Achievement Academy of Durham. Our nonprofit was created to assist Durham youth to pass the GED and then graduate with a postsecondary degree or recognized certification, enabling them to move out of poverty.

Gayle Erdheim, the second Director, helped grow the program to include our current classroom model, in addition to our tutoring program, embedding career development and providing social support.

The organization joined the Made in Durham partnership to further enhance the program’s commitment to career development and to providing support to students as they matriculate into a post-secondary program.

Early on, the program was part of the Durham Literacy Center and then enjoyed a prominent location in the South Bank Building in downtown Durham.  Currently we are part of the historic Crest Street neighborhood.