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You know that feeling when you spot a brilliant rainbow in the sky with absolutely no warning? No matter what is happening in that moment, you always stop all action and immediately point, shouting, “Look! It’s a rainbow!” with glee.


That initial moment—of wonder, of surprise, of joy—is what I felt when I was able to truly see Durham for the first time. As a rising sophomore, I have lived here for almost a full year. Yet in the past few weeks, I have finally begun to discover all the unique history and opportunities that Durham has to offer.


Throughout the past three weeks, we have taken the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly explore the community as a group. We have gone on a tobacco heritage walking tour, spoken with community leaders, attended a Durham Bulls game, and more; all these activities were small yet crucial steps towards learning about the true Durham.


One of the most eye-opening experiences here has definitely been my daily work with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), where I am involved with the YouthWork internship program that provides internship opportunities for Durham residents. These interns are primarily students at Durham Public Schools and would hopefully learn and benefit from this summer opportunity. Through other DukeEngage meetings, I have already learned about why and how Durham residents are struggling to find well-paying jobs, in part due to the lacking public education system as well as the current outsourcing of local jobs to nonresidents. However, what I like most about OEWD is that its goal is to train youth as well as adults to be ready, prepared, and competitive in the workforce. I have been able to help complete the required paperwork for these approximately two hundred interns, as well as aid in planning activities for the internship’s three-day job training conference, which took place this past Monday through Wednesday. Those three days were probably the highlight of my work so far, as I was able to finally meet these interns and match faces to the names that I had already become so familiar with as I completed their paperwork and toiled with their applications. Through registration and monitoring interactive activities, I observed how important this internship really was to so many of these kids—they showed up super early every day in fear of being late, were receptive and eager to participate in discussions, and generally happy to be there.


Another experience that I have enjoyed has been the many group activities, both those organized by my DukeEngage coordinators as well as those we have taken on our own, that allow us to explore the city and neighboring community partners. This weekend we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to volunteer at Families Moving Forward, an organization that offers temporary housing for families going through homelessness. Neil, Harry, and I reorganized the storage area downstairs and transferred laundry detergent to small bottles fit for individual families. I really appreciated the opportunity to spend part of my weekend doing something impactful instead of just hanging out with friends and binge-watching Netflix!


Harry and Neil volunteering at Families Moving Forward. Pictured here: pouring laundry detergent into bottles suitable for giving out to individual families.


So yes, Durham is like a rainbow, but what makes it truly bright and full of hope are the people who live here. I have witnessed that they are passionate and driven towards community engagement and aiding those in need, and they are the reason why Durham will continue to shine bright.