As I reflect on my first three weeks here in Durham, I realize just how much I didn’t know—and still don’t know—about the history and culture that has shaped Durham into the revitalized art and technology hub that it is today. After all, living within the comforts of the 3-feet stone walls surrounding East Campus during my freshman year at Duke made it all too easy to forget about life beyond the “Duke bubble.” But that comfort and convenience came at the cost of engaging with our my own Durham community and acknowledging the social and economic challenges around us. I was motivated to participate in DukeEngage-Durham because turning a blind eye to real-life issues would contradict my mission as a Duke student: to be an agent of positive change.
As an intern at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, I help with the Durham YouthWork Internship Program to provide local youths (ages 14-24) with opportunities to gain job experience, employable skills, and exposure to potential career paths. The initiative aims to train Durham’s young population to be competitive in the workforce.
While the past two weeks involved mostly of filing paperwork, sending emails, making phone calls, and creating a weekly survey, the work definitely paid off when we were finally able to meet the students during their pre-employment training program. As I matched the unfamiliar faces with the familiar names during registration, it all felt…real. The names were no longer just string of letters on a page. They were now attached to faces of motivated students excited to learn and prepared to work. Seeing the eagerness in their eyes and the sincerity of their smiles, at that moment I realized just how much the program meant to them.
Aside from working at OEWD, I spent the past few weekends with my fellow peers visiting historical sites such as Stagville, volunteering at the Scrap Exchange, walking through Durham’s civil rights history, watching a Durham Bulls game, as well as enjoying the sights and sounds of modern-day downtown Durham. From its Farmers’ Markets and Food Truck Festivals to its historic murals and street musicians, Durham has so much to offer for those with open ears, open eyes, and open hearts. I’m so thankful for DukeEngage for showing me all there is to discover in Durham, NC. I can’t wait for all the adventures to come!