Hi, everyone! My name is Anya Bali, and I’m one of the three students interning with the Durham Office of Economic & Workforce Development (OEWD) for the NC portion of DukeEngage. In the past few weeks, I’ve been working to facilitate their Durham YouthWork Internship Program (DYIP), talking to community leaders in the city, and exploring new sides of Durham.
The YouthWork Program provides paid internships to the city’s youth in a variety of sectors, all designed to involve them in Durham’s workforce through real experience and career development skills. At the OEWD, we spend most of our time processing paperwork and entering data for the ~200 interns participating this year. Next week, we’ll be helping the OEWD with the pre-employment intern training, where they will learn about goal-setting, appropriate workplace behavior, and making the most of their internship.
In my short time working with the program, I have been impressed by the city’s commitment to connecting local youth to its rapidly changing workforce. I saw this most when meeting with representatives from Durham Public Schools, Made in Durham, and other community organizations partnering with OEWD. They each bring a different perspective to addressing the issue of poverty in Durham, but are collectively committed to developing a program that encourages employment and career engagement. I’ve enjoyed being a part of their team and can’t wait to see how their brainstorming and collaboration shapes training and the interns’ experiences.
Through my experiences at the OEWD and my own exploration of the city, I have learned more about Durham in weeks than I knew in all of my freshman year. Whether I’ve been enjoying new restaurants in the Triangle, exploring local art collections, asking questions of Duke executives and Mayor Bill Bell, or watching people dress up as beavers for charity (yes, seriously—the Beaver Queen Pageant is a big deal in Durham), my perception of the Bull City has changed to include much more than just the area around East Campus. The most notable factor in this change is meeting people for whom Durham’s history is a vital, natural part of their lives. Reading articles or watching documentaries about Durham presents the city in much the same way that being a Duke student does: as history. Hearing from Durham residents and changemakers, gaining multiple perspectives on the city’s social and economic transformations, and working to improve the economic status of Durham youth has proved that the city’s history is as influential on today’s Durham as it was in the days of tobacco warehouses and textile mills.
It’s only been a few weeks, so I’m excited to see what new changes and experiences come with the rest of our time in North Carolina.