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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

When searching for a Duke Engage program, I happened upon Duke Engage Durham. To me, I thought it was the best of both worlds: a domestic and abroad experience. It presented me with the opportunity to delve into the community in which I spend my college years as well as explore a small, rural town in England. When I tell people about my Duke Engage program, they say “Wow, that’s neat you get to go to England” or “You are going to London right?”. It’s funny that upon mention of the abroad component, people completely forget about my experience right here in our Durham, NC community. I think it’s important to highlight the importance of the domestic component of the program because while going abroad can be more exciting and glamorous, making an impact directly in my own community proves both sustainable and rewarding.

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been working at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, mainly implementing their Durham Youthwork Internship program which employs some 250 Durham youth in the community. From my work, I’ve been exposed to aspects of the Durham community I was blind to my past 2 years at Duke. I was unaware of even the most overarching aspects of Duke’s history. Coming into this program, I knew that Washington Duke built his fortune from Tobacco but was unaware of the ingenuity of the Duke family and the dominance of American Tobacco until our tour of the Duke Homestead. After hearing from an economic panel comprised of representatives from Made in Durham and Duke’s Office of Civil Engagement along Mayor Bill Bell, I gained better insight on Durham’s economic issues and history. I also was exposed to a better picture of Duke’s role in Durham, which many students still remain blind to.

From my experience thus far, I have learned more about Durham than any amount of time at Duke could have taught me. I think this is an important lessen to consider – breaking out of what students call “The Duke Bubble” to quite literally “Engage” in the community.