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Overview: On the Job

Me, Tiff, Michelle Gao, and Alex at work

I chose to work at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) because I knew it would be a great exposure to the city of Durham as a whole and to the work that goes into improving the area’s economy and workforce.  The very first day, our boss James Dickens introduced us to all of the staff who work at OEWD and this was what initially got me excited to begin working.  Each member of OEWD is heavily involved in some aspect of Durham’s affairs, be it the economic side or the workforce side, and I knew this was a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about the work that they do for Durham.

Alex, Beini and I organizing files for the YouthWork Interns


Of course, we aren’t able intern for the entire OEWD non-profit; we work with James on the Youthwork Internship Program (YIP).  Our work mainly consists of administrative tasks such as recording files, gathering paperwork, making phone-calls, etc.  During DukeEngage Academy, we were told that often times work can be quite tedious, and in all honesty the work we do for YIP can be just that; however, it’s really important to take an aerial view of the purpose of this type of work.  Going through countless intern files, each multiple times, every day, is a lot; but there’s just so much to check, and from our experience so far, there are always missing files or incomplete forms in these intern files.  That just goes to show that this tedious work is SO necessary for the overall process of preparing for YIP.  A missing copy of a social security card and a missing form are just as impactful as a typo in an excel sheet, or a carelessly misplaced file.  Our work so far at OEWD has been, above everything, a matter of extreme organization and caution.

YIP Orientation

Entering the City Council Chambers for the second day of YIP orientatio

Twice this past week we held an orientation session for all the interns to come and fill out the important paperwork that become a part of their files.  We realized our important roles when, on the first orientation day, suddenly a multitude of hands shot up for questions; not only could we not answer many of the questions at once, but we also found that we didn’t know how to answer some questions.  On the second orientation day, we made sure to understand exactly how to answer the common asked questions, and things went a lot more smoothly.  Currently we’re continuing with important file records and processing paperwork, and we’re beginning to plan how we can ensure that this process can be performed smoothly, both on our end and on the intern’s end, in the years to come.

Exploring Durham

Pelican Snoballs!

When we aren’t working, I usually talk with my roommate, Tiff, about things we can do around Durham with the group.  Some of us have been to Pelican Snoballs for snow cones, The Foster’s for brunch, and even the Beaver Queen Pageant.  My favorite of those was the pageant, because it really showed me the free-spirited and diverse nature of Durham’s people.  Each candidate dressed up in what seemed to be recycled material, with a theme for the kind of beaver that they were, and we were able to watch some of their talents.  It was held in Duke Park where people gathered to sit on blankets, eat food, and watch the show with friends and family.

Tiff and I have also wandered around American Tobacco, visited the 21C Museum Hotel, which showcased modern art, and listened to live band performances at Pinhook.  There are so many things that we’ve realized we can do around Durham that both of us unfortunately never got around to doing during the school year.



Thursday night at Pinhook – (bands: North11 (playing in photo), Vanguard Party, Beach Casino, and Map the Sky )

Being Present and Being Curious

One thing I’ve realized being in Durham is that it is so easy to get caught up in the familiarity and comfort of being in the same place that we go to school.  Many, if not all, of us have friends around campus or in nearby apartments that makes it easy to meet up with people outside our program.  While that does make the DukeEngage experience the best of both worlds, I’ve learned that I need to balance them.

Despite going to school in Durham, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually been to downtown, or other parts of Durham.  Just after two weeks of exploring the idiosyncrasies of the city, I’ve learned to love how quirky it is.  Granted, we’re also slowly learning about the issues and divides that exist here, but being present and curious is the best way to make the most of the people and the activities specific to DukeEngage Durham.  So far I’ve loved every moment of exploring what this city has to offer, both for learning and for enjoyment.