By Emily Kennard
the Durham VOICE
Look around Troy Weaver’s office at the brand-new Union Independent School, on the corner of North Roxboro and Dowd streets, and it appears he has hardly started working. Frames are still covered in plastic wrap, shelves remain empty and walls are bare.
But the mess isn’t due to a lack of work ethic—Weaver is just too busy with other things to organize.
“I don’t have time to do that,” he said. “I have to make sure everything else is going smoothly.”
Weaver, the head of school at the new Union Independent School, has been working with youth in the education field since his days as an undergraduate at Duke University 30 years ago.
To make ends meet after Weaver graduated from Duke, Weaver worked as a substitute teacher and fell in love with profession.
“I was hooked because of that experience,” he said.
After discovering this passion, Weaver earned his master’s degree in teaching from UNC- Chapel Hill. He then took a teaching job at Hugh M. Cummings High School in Burlington where Weaver said his race and age made him a standout figure at the school.
“A lot of students hadn’t seen African-American males in the sciences,” he said. “They thought it was cool I was young. A lot of students looked at me like a father figure.”
Windy Dascenzo, a third grade teacher and one of Weaver’s former students at Hugh M. Cummings, said Weaver inspired her to go into the education field.
“He was very energetic about teaching,” she said. “He helped me develop a love for science.”
Weaver then worked as an educational specialist at the Durham County Youth Home where he taught troubled teenagers awaiting court cases. He taught grades five through 11 and was the only teacher.
“I saw it as an opportunity to be a positive influence,” he said.
Weaver even took custody of a student who had poor living conditions at home.
“I was letting them know that someone cared,” he said.
But the job took a toll on Weaver when some of his pupils were lost to the streets.
“The hardest part was burying four kids in five years,” he said. “It was too much”
Due to stress and financial reasons, Weaver took a job at Cary Academy teaching math and science. But leaving Durham County Youth Home was tough for Weaver.
“The difficult thing was hoping that someone else would have the like passion for them that I did,” he said.
Weaver soon pursued the administrative track by taking a job as headmaster at Durham Nativity School. He said his students at the Durham Youth County Home inspired him to accept this job.
“They would say, ‘If you had a school, I would come. I don’t want to go back to my school because they don’t care about me like you do,’” Weaver said.
Weaver helped build Durham Nativity from scratch: finding a location, overseeing construction and developing curriculum.
Anthony Lantigua, a freshman at Elon University, was in the first graduating class of Durham Nativity and lived with Weaver during his sophomore year of high school.
“It had a big impact on my life seeing him live day to day,” Lantigua said. “As a man, he showed me how to be responsible.”
Weaver’s son KeJuan, a freshman at North Carolina State University, was also a member of the inaugural graduating class and said his dad influenced him to study education.
“When he was teaching at Cary Academy, he worked overtime, and sometimes I would tag along,” KeJuan said. “I saw what he was doing.”
While at a Duke University class reunion, some old friends asked Weaver to take the position of head of school at Union Independent School. He accepted without hesitation.
Weaver started his job at the Union Independent School last summer and once again worked to build a school from scratch.
But all this hard work paid off. On June 20th, Weaver was there when the names of the students chosen to attend the new school were announced.
“To be able to watch the jubilation of children’s parents was very rewarding,” he said.
Sandra Green, assistant to the head of school, said she hopes Weaver’s positive attitude will be contagious to students.
“I pray that they will attain some of the goals he has started,” she said.
Weaver said he plans to work in the education field until he retires. But until then, he will continue to change students’ lives inside and outside the classroom, just as he did for Lantigua.
“He was really a big factor in getting my life straight,” Lantigua said. “I couldn’t pay him enough for what he’s done.”