Double Discovery Center


Educating Children of Promise since 1965


Mission and History

Our Mission

Today, DDC persists in its commitment to help underserved community youth get into and graduate from college so that they can live fulfilling lives.   We leverage the intellectual resources of the University to foster a culture of achievement, confidence, and hope for our first-generation and low income college-bound students.  We continually refine our efforts to ensure that our students have a comprehensive network of support to help them pursue and attain their highest aspirations for success to, through, and beyond college.  Just as it was in 1965, DDC’s mission is to increase the high school graduation as well as the college enrollment and graduation rates of low income and first-generation college-bound youth from public schools in Harlem and Washington Heights.

Brief History of DDC

DDC was established as Project Double Discovery (PDD) in 1965 by Columbia and Barnard undergraduates. These socially conscious and civically engaged individuals sought to address the glaring disparities between the educational experiences of individuals attending the local Ivy League institution and those attending the local public schools. 

Their mission was simple yet profound – improve the educational experiences and outcomes of community youth by exposing them to the rigors of Columbia. 

As they worked to fulfill their mission, the mutuality of benefit crystallized.  Columbia students strengthened several core competencies – “Civic and Individual Responsibility,” “Teamwork and Collaboration,” and “Community Engagement and Inclusion” – as they shared their knowledge, skills, and talents to help build the college readiness of young people from the community.

Steve Weinberg (Columbia College ’66) and Roger Lehecka (Columbia College ’67) enlisted the assistance of Professor Shenton and Arnold Saltzman (Columbia College ’36) in steering a funding proposal through the now defunct U.S. Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) to support the development and implementation of efforts to realize their vision.  Saltzman, who was active in Washington politics and CEO of Vista Resources and the Seagrave Company, convinced Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and OEO Director R. Sargent Shriver to award Columbia University a TRIO grant.  It was one of only 17 pilot projects funded by OEO under President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiative.  Since then, DDC is one of only five originally funded programs to continuously receive TRIO funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

In 1965, 160 low-income high school students from Harlem enrolled in PDD’s summer academic program in 1965 and in 1968, PDD’s TRIO Upward Bound (UB) program was expanded to a full year of academic programming.  By 1977, PDD had become known as the Double Discovery Center (DDC) and with additional TRIO grant funds, it implemented its Talent Search (TS) program.  Not only did this expansion deepen the University’s commitment to help tackle the educational disparities experienced by community youth, but DDC also emerged as a model for other similar programs across the country. 

A Board of Friends was established in 1984 to monitor and evaluate the delivery of PDD’s services as well as to work to ensure its long-term success.  In 1985, PDD changed its name to the Double Discovery Center (DDC).  Throughout its history, DDC has demonstrated exceptional innovation in its approach to education for low-income, first-generation community youth so that they are prepared for college access and success.  In 1998, President Bill Clinton praised DDC for its program designed to reduce racial disparities through education.