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New Opportunities School for Women at Lees-McRae a ‘Moving and Rewarding’ Experience for Volunteers

Aug. 20, 2012. High Country Women’s Fund (HCWF) volunteers were well represented for the graduation of 10 women who attended the New Opportunities School for Women this summer at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.

The HCWF provided scholarships for two of the women who participated in the three-week program, which included classes, empowerment programs and an internship. HCWF volunteer Barbara Elwood provided the self-esteem workshops for the program and said, “Providing those workshops for this summer’s New Opportunities School was a moving and rewarding experience. The courage and determination of all the women inspired me to be more determined in my own life.”

At a celebratory luncheon for the graduates at her home in Montezuma, Elwood said that each woman made a symbolic gesture of putting aside any fear, anger, and guilt so that she can move forward and make positive decisions about her future. Elwood said, “I did it too. We called it ‘That’s it, we’re moving on!’”

HCWF’s Barbara Elwood, Iesha, and Mary Jo Grubbs, R, share the excitement of Iesha’s reunion with her daughters after a three-week separation for Iesha to participate in the NOSW program.

On graduation day participants’ families shared a graduation luncheon and heard family members’ stories. Mary Jo Grubbs, another HCWF volunteer, said the remarks were amazing. “Most of the attendees had never spoken in public before, and their thoughts were so profound that it just reduced the audience and family members to tears.” Grubbs went on to say that some of the graduates are heading to college in the fall while others will return home to continue their education with a GED or community college class. “All are excited about the potential for change in their lives.”

The New Opportunities School for Women at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk is home to the second NOSW. The first was founded in 1987 by Lees-McRae alumna Jane Stephenson in Berea, KY. The organization seeks to improve the educational, financial, and personal circumstances of low-income women in the Appalachian region. That fits in perfectly with the mission of the High Country Women’s Fund, which is committed to affecting positive change for women and children in need in Avery and Watauga counties. The HCWF is an initiative of the High Country United Way.