My name is Carolyn Tang and I am one of the four students interning at Threshold this summer. The first few weeks of my Duke Engage program have allowed me to experience new sides of Durham, a place with both the charm of a small town and the richness of a larger city. Through enrichment events, I have learned of the history that has shaped Durham into what it is today and through my work at Threshold, I have been exposed to Durham’s current economic and social culture.
The first week of my Duke Engage experience, we visited the Duke homestead and studied the role of the Duke family and its brightleaf tobacco legacy. We learned of the complex relationship between Duke University and the city of Durham, where it resided. We were given the chance to interact with current economic icons in the city, such as the mayor, a Duke administrator, and a local activist working to preserve the city’s history, combat gentrification, and support local commerce. The second week, we took a tour of downtown Durham where we examined the significance of the civil rights movement in Durham. With murals on every street corner, the influence of the arts on the city was tangible.
At Threshold, I work with members with severe mental illness. Threshold is a “clubhouse” that acts as a psychosocial rehabilitation center. At Threshold, there are four work units where members work alongside staff to perform certain tasks that better the clubhouse. The units include the kitchen, the snack bar, clerical, and employment & development. By empowering members to take control of there lives and by giving members the freedom to choose, Threshold provides them with a sense of routine and normality that has proven to be crucial in integrating them back into the work force. My classmates and I work in employment & development, the unit that helps members with developing job skills in order to secure transitional employment.
Working at Threshold has taught me the importance of the destigmatization of the mentally ill. It has shown me the potential of this demographic, one that often gets left behind within the community. It has helped me build compassion and has opened my eyes to a problem that often gets neglected. Threshold gives a voice to those that don’t have one and moves us one step closer to a better Durham.