Holton and East End Connector take center stage

By Aaron Saunders
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

For four years the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council has been meeting once a month to push for the revitalization of NECD. This month’s meeting focused on the success of DPS’s Holton Career & Resource Center, recognized exiting members and discussed the upcoming plans for the East End Connector.

William Brannon awarded for his services to the NECD Leadership Council. (Staff photo by Aaron Saunders)

The council, brought together by then Executive Director of NECD, Earl Phillips, has 19 members who are community leaders, heads of businesses and city employees.

“When I first came here there were no other councils like ours,” said Phillips. “We were the first.”

This month, the invited guest speaker was Holton Career & Resource Center Principal Gloria J. Woods-Weeks who spoke about current and future projects of the school.

“We had an exhilarating first year. We opened with 25 students and ended the year with 117,” said Weeks.

The Holton Career & Resource Center opened its doors in 2009 after community officials fought vigorously for a place for the youth of the community to go instead of being on the streets. The space is shared between Durham Public Schools, Durham Parks and Recreation, and a Duke University run health clinic.

Students who attend Holton through DPS arrive in mid-afternoon after attending their base schools in the morning. At Holton, they take classes to earn certification in trades such as barbering, landscaping or construction, among others.

Weeks discussed the six programs that the center houses and the big plans for the future. “Eventually the building will house 400 students and have math, English, and physical education,” said Weeks. “Holton really wants to be a career-ready center.”

The school has added a free food program for some students two times a week because some students arrived at the school ahead of their lunch time at their original school.

“We get food twice a week from the food shelter in Raleigh and that is a real big help,” said Weeks.

During the meeting, Phillips also announced that council member and former District 1 Captain Winslow Forbes was promoted to Assistant Chief and is now in charge of southside operations. Forbes was the liaison between District 1 police and the council. Because of his new responsibilities, he will be leaving the council. His replacement, Paul Daye is looking forward to working the council.

PAC 1 Representative, William Brannon, is also stepping down. He received an award for his service to the council.

“The council likes to thank each outgoing representative with a token of appreciation,” said Phillips.

The Council also discussed the East End Connector that the North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to build in East Durham and how it would affect their community.

The connector, designed to provide a direct connection between the Durham Freeway (NC-147) and US 70 (Miami Boulevard) will cut through NECD and force some residents, businesses, and churches to move.

Council members urge community residents to come to the informational workshop on September 20 at the Holton Career and Resource Center. Many members of the council expressed opposition to the connector.

“If we want to see East Durham grow then we need people to stop at our businesses,” said Rev. Melvin Whitley.

The meeting concluded with a reminder of the good things the council has done and the need to keep fighting.

“This council and your involvement these last four years have been very important,” said Phillips. “NECD is the most critical component of this city. No other community has a subcommittee with four city council members on it.”