There’s something about North Carolina that always draws me back before long. You could say I’m loyal to the soil (shoutout to Dolla Dame), but it’s more than that–it’s home, because that’s where my family is, my real one in Charlotte, and my new one made of all of my friends at Duke. I tell myself that I’ll eventually move away to explore the rest of the world, but I’ve got some more exploring to do first here in Durham. That’s probably been one of the biggest reasons why I chose DukeEngage Durham-Durham, because despite having been in college since 2014, I still feel like something is missing from my relationship with our surrounding community.
Fortunately, I’ve started to find what I’ve been looking for in these past few weeks, as Harry and I have begun work at the City of Durham’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Our projects have been more on the economic side of the department, as we’ve focused on researching and collecting data from other cities in order to determine the costs and benefits of potentially opening up a new Office of Creative Arts and Cultural Affairs for the City of Durham. We’ve also been tasked with formulating ideas for the upcoming Sesquicentennial Festival (150th anniversary) of Durham next year, which will grant the perfect occasion to look back and remember and celebrate the rich history of our city. In our research for both of these projects, we’ve learned a great deal already about Durham’s past, from the Black Wall Street and all of the black-owned businesses that called Durham home, to the importance of the Hayti Heritage Center and the harmful consequences of “urban renewal” and gentrification, not to mention the basic layout of the city; I’ve driven more in these past 3 weeks than I have in the past 3 years around Durham.
Outside of work, our “sensational six” (bit corny but it’s stuck now) have gotten quite close as we’ve learned about our Duke and Durham through talks with rising-sophomore President Vincent Price, guided tours through the streets of downtown and the farmer’s market, and even a nail-biter Bull’s game against the Gwinnett Stripers. Most recently though, our group made a short excursion over the weekend to Kitty Hawk, another part of North Carolina that I had yet to investigate. Believe it or not, the highlight of the trip for me wasn’t working on our tans on the beach, or even dominating everyone else in minigolf (that WaDuke golf class totally paid off), but rather the long drives there and back that allowed me the opportunity to better know my carmates. I am definitely excited for the Incredible things yet to come in our DukeEngage experience!