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CIS Trailblazers Gear Up for College

Arms full of luggage, bags full of clothes, and lines of family members hauling pounds of miscellaneous items to make school feel like home—starting college is an overwhelming experience but also a thrilling time for students and their families.

Communities In Schools of Durham collaborated this year with the Durham Woman’s Club to “Sponsor a Trailblazer,” giving CIS graduates to have the resources they need to start college successfully such as school supplies, toiletries, and linens. Members of the Durham Woman’s Club sponsored two men and two women headed to a four-year university.

“Last year we realized that many of our seniors were the first to go to college,” says Elizabeth Levene, Director of Program Development and Community Outreach at CIS of Durham. “It made us think about next year that they need the supplies … to succeed in college.

According to College Board, the average public four-year institution can cost a student at least $9,139 per semester. That cost does not include the price of a dorm room or other outlying expenses such as school supplies or books. CIS of Durham and the Durham Woman’s Club waned help alleviating the cost for first-generation students by providing some of the essentials they need to start college successfully.

Upcoming Eastern Carolina University first-year, Steven*, hopes with the supplies that he will have more time to focus on school. “I won’t have to work during the summer and school year and going to not just help me but also my roommate,” he says.

CIS alum Ashley*, who is starting her first year at North Carolina Central, explains that the supplies will help her family with the cost, and her parents are greatful for the support. “The supplies help with not having to pay for things out of pocket so much,” she says.

The partnership with the Durham Woman’s Club evolved after a statewide partnership between CIS of North Carolina and the North Carolina Woman’s Club.

“The Trailblazers seemed to be a good fit because the women could donate money and buy things,” says Durham Woman’s Club President Lynn Odom. “That could be something the women could do no matter how old they are.”

After meeting the students for the first time, Lynn says, “It made it more personal... We hope to keep up with these students through their college years by sending them care packages and cards each month.”

The Durham Woman’s Club is a local affiliate of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs whose aim is to promote a healthier community in Durham. “Sponsor a Trailblazer” is the first collaborative project between CIS of Durham and Durham Woman’s Club.

Although he is leaving CIS of Durham, upcoming ECU first-year, Vaughn* explained why he loved CIS of Durham and how staff empowered him to go to college. “I love CIS of Durham because they took me under my wing since I moved into Durham in my junior year,” Vaughn says. “I was lost and they implemented me into their program. They helped me gain skills to help my community that helped with going to college.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the students.

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