Pioneer Scholars

Serving students in grades 1-8

Pioneer Scholars ensures that our elementary and middle school students are building academic skills, achieving in school, and laying the foundation for future college success.

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Pioneer Scholars is a free, academic enrichment program serving academically-focused elementary and middle school students in Durham County who aspire to attend college after high school. The goal of the program is to establish a strong foundation of academic and leadership skills so that students enter high school ready to excel in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that will put them on the path to admission at select colleges and universities.

Program benefits include:

  • Small group instruction and skill building
  • Academic benchmarking to assess college readiness
  • Cultural, arts, and social enrichment activities
  • Character and leadership skill building
  • Career exploration for middle school students
  • Parent and family engagement and support
  • Summer enrichment programs

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students currently enrolled
100 %
of Pioneer Scholars parents say the program has increased their confidence that their child will attend college
81 %
of students are meeting or exceeding academic benchmarks in math and reading

Meet The Pioneer Scholars Team

Nephitearya Bailey Singleton

Director of Elementary and Middle School Readiness
919-680-0308 x2002

Nephitearya joined the Emily K Center team in 2019 as director of elementary and middle school readiness. She earned her B.A. from Meredith College and was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow.

Favorite book: The Little Prince
Best advice ever received about education: Don’t measure your success by another person’s yardstick.

Kaitlyn Gray

Elementary and Middle School Programming Coordinator
919-680-0308 x2003

Kaitlyn has been working with the Pioneer Scholars program since she first came to the Center in 2017. In 2021, Kaitlyn assumed the role of elementary and middle school program coordinator. She earned her B.A. from Appalachian State University.

Favorite late-night college snack: Instant mac and cheese
Favorite college course: Child and adolescent psychology

Monserrat Banda

Elementary and Middle School Program Assistant
919-680-0308 x4002

Monserrat joined the Emily K Center team in July 2021 as our elementary and middle school program assistant. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Monserrat is no stranger to the Center — she is a proud Emily K Center alumna and we’re so glad to have her working with our Pioneer Scholars team!

Favorite school supply: Sticky notes!
Best advice ever received about education: Make learning fun however you can! (I used colored gel pens for my notes.)

Pioneer Scholars Program Calendar

Volunteer With Pioneer Scholars

Working under the supervision of programming staff and Lead Tutors, volunteer tutors provide direct academic and enrichment support to the students in their assigned group. In order to serve as a volunteer tutor, you must be at least 18 years of age, successfully complete a background check, and have a high level of proficiency in literacy, math, and/or STEM-related skills.

If you are interested in volunteering in a non-academic capacity, please contact us at

Apply Now To Be A Volunteer Tutor
Student Spotlight

Meet Dylan, Grade 3

Dylan is a third grade student who has been enrolled in Pioneer Scholars since the second grade. When at the Center, Dylan is always quick to share a smile, and his Lead Tutors describe him as extremely creative, caring, and thoughtful. Dylan’s favorite subject is math, and he also really enjoys a new spelling game called Sparkle. Outside of academics, Dylan has pet birds and has enjoyed the chance to show off his favorite feathered friends to his fellow scholars during virtual programming. We’re so lucky to have Dylan in the Emily K Center family.