In fact, the New Opportunity School for Women at Bluefield College is looking for women to be a part of its next life-changing program – a three-week residential experience on the BC campus, May 15 through June 4, 2016, designed to help participants confront their circumstances, overcome their conditions, and pave the way for a new and better life.
Founded by Jane B. Stephenson in 1987 at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, out of an urgent need to help women in Appalachia become better educated and employed, the New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW) is designed to improve the educational, financial and personal circumstances of low-income, under-educated, middle-aged women in the Appalachian region.
The NOSW expanded to a second site at Lees-McCrae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, in 2005, and is now celebrating its fourth year in the Appalachian regions of Virginia and West Virginia through the establishment the third location at Bluefield College in Bluefield, Virginia.
“From the first step I took onto the Bluefield College campus I knew I had come to a loving, caring place,” said Stephenson. “Every person I met was concerned about others and wanted to help people become better educated and have a fulfilling life. Statistically, we knew that West Virginia and certain parts of Virginia had many people that were low income, especially many women. So, Bluefield seemed an ideal place for an expansion site for the New Opportunity School for Women.”
Stephenson said she’s “excited” about the expansion of the NOSW into southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia and “thrilled” that Bluefield College is the site for that expansion. Partnerships with colleges, she added, create a special opportunity for the NOSW to reach rural Appalachian women who may not consider higher education otherwise.
“I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in a very isolated small town. I knew even then that women didn’t have the opportunities that men had and that there were very different expectations for women than men,” said Stephenson. “I want Appalachian women to have more opportunities for themselves and their families, especially through becoming more educated and ultimately having a career with benefits and increased income for their families.”
The NOSW fulfills that mission through residential programs at its college sites. The 2016 residential program at Bluefield College starts May 15, and the college is already accepting applications for the three-week experience that Meg Quinn, director of the BC NOSW, says is life-changing.
“If you are willing to learn, and you want to improve your life and your life circumstances, then this program is for you,” said Quinn, “especially women who just need a boost up and loving support. We have people here who will believe in you and help you realize you can do things you never thought you could. It is amazing how three weeks can change your life.”
Designed for women in Appalachia who have experienced difficult circumstances, but still have an eagerness to learn, improve their lives and become more self-sufficient, the BC New Opportunity School is open to women with a high school diploma or GED (or those working toward a GED). There is no cost to attend, and all books, meals and campus housing are covered by grants and awards. Funds are also available for childcare and transportation, if needed.
The three-week session, May 15 through June 4, includes academic study, cultural experiences, personal development, job search training, college preparation, and leadership development. Participants work 50 hours per week on a curriculum that includes a distinctive focus on Appalachian literature, creative writing, personal reflection, the Appalachian culture, and cultural experiences in theater, museums and historical sites.
The NOSW program also includes personal support in the form of career counseling, group reflection, makeovers, dress for success resources, and health screenings – all designed to create a sense of pride and self-worth. In fact, the NOSW care continues even after the residency with coaching, career guidance, workshops, reunions, internships, higher education opportunities, scholarship opportunities, clothing resources, and continued networking with the “sisterhood” of NOSW graduates.
“We are here to encourage, love and support the participants of this program and help them realize how strong they really are,” said Quinn, a 2010 alumna of the NOSW program who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Lees-McRae College before becoming the first NOSW graduate to advance to director of the program. “We have the tools and the help they need. Take a chance and come find out how to be the best you can be.”
To find out more about the New Opportunity School for Women, even apply online for the May 2016 session at Bluefield College, visit www.bluefield.edu/nosw. Interested applicants may also contact Quinn by phone at 276-326-4257 or by e-mail [email protected] for more information or to receive and submit an application by postal mail.