When I applied to the DukeEngage Durham program, I was hoping that I would gain a better sense of the city where I have resided during the past two years, both in terms of its history and its present-day issues. I use the term “resided” strategically. As a student at Duke University, I believe that it is often hard to tell people that I live in Durham, NC, while being completely honest about my time here at Duke. What I mean by this is that up until this past week I could count on one hand the number of times I had taken public transportation in Durham, the number of times I’d explored Main Street or beyond, and the number of times I had engaged in a conversation about Durham’s history or economic development. Those are all things that I wanted the chance to change during my time here this summer.
Last week, with these goals as part of a newfound summer (and beyond) mission, I set out to work at Families Moving Forward. FMF is a non-profit that provides temporary homes to families with children in the crisis of homelessness. For four weeks this summer, Angela Caldwell (my DukeEngage colleague) and I will be leading a summer program for eight of FMF’s preteens and teens on financial literacy. I have worked with children’s education in the past and I was excited to bring that experience while taking on this new challenge.
On my first day of work with FMF, I wanted to tackle one of my goals from the very beginning — conquering the public transportation system in Durham. I decided to take the Bull City Connector from campus to work. This has become part of our morning routine. Some days we enjoy the nice quiet of the bus ride. Other days we see the bus drive past us as we are still making our way toward the stop and we somewhat begrudgingly make the 1.5 mile walk to work. Other than that handful of times we have missed the bus, the use of public transportation has been so seamless that it has caused me to question why I had not utilized it before this summer. The bus rides and walks to and from work have both had their perks. On the bus, we get to listen to the buzz of conversation between Durhamites and act as silent observers. On each walk to work, Angela or I seem to notice some shop, restaurant, or Durham destination that we had not picked up on before.
In planning our financial literacy summer camp, Making Cent$, it only seems fitting that the theme for our first week is Getting to Know Durham. These children that we will be working with have grown up in this community, but how much do they really know about this place where they live and its economic history? Next week, as the summer camp starts, we will be taking the children on many small field trips around Durham. Many of the places that we are taking them are places that I, myself, have not even had the opportunity to visit yet. Speaking for myself, I have learned more about Durham in the past two weeks than in the entire two years that I have “lived” here. While I hope to give the children in our summer program a better sense of the place where they live, I hope to be getting a similar takeaway from the experience.