Bluefield University in the News

PHOENIX DIVAS: RISING FROM TROUBLED PASTS

by | Jun 17, 2016

Bluefield College hosted its fourth annual session of the New Opportunity School for Women, May 16 through June 4, in an effort to help disadvantaged women from Appalachia confront their circumstances, overcome their conditions, and pave the way for a new and better life.
PARTICIPANTS OF THE NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN PARTICIPATE IN MOCK INTERVIEWS TO IMPROVE THEIR JOB SEARCH SKILLS.
JANE B. STEPHENSON, FOUNDER OF THE NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN, SHARES WORDS OF WISDOM WITH THE BLUEFIELD COLLEGE NOSW PARTICIPANTS.
DR. DON CAUDILL, A GENEROUS SUPPORTER OF THE NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN, PRESENTS A GIFT TO THE 2016 PARTICIPANTS AT BLUEFIELD COLLEGE.
BLUEFIELD COLLEGE NOSW DIRECTOR MEG QUINN (LEFT) PRESENTS A COMMEMORATIVE PIN TO THE 2016 NOSW GRADUATES.
GRADUATES OF THE 2016 NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN AT BLUEFIELD COLLEGE.

The New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW, considered a life-changing program for the women involved, is a three-week residential experience on the campus of Bluefield College designed for women who, in the midst of difficult circumstances, show a willingness to learn, improve their lives and become more self-sufficient.

 

The women who participated this year included Rina Alvarado of Tazewell, Virginia; Kimberly Casey of Richlands, Virginia; Sabrina Dotson of Richlands, Virginia; Chasity Edwards of Haysi, Virginia; Tabitha Jenny of Beckley, West Virginia; Laura Jones of Princeton, West Virginia; Tammy Riddle of Beckley, West Virginia; Brenda Tackett of Abingdon, Virginia; Danielle Williams of Bluefield, West Virginia; Hope Wilson of Beckley, West Virginia; and Maria Woody of Beckley, West Virginia.

 

The women from the 2016 NOSW session named their class The Phoenix Divas. The phoenix, they said, is a mythical bird known for rising from the ashes. Like the phoenix, they too have overcome obstacles and have risen to find new hope and new life.

 

“This experience has been a game changer for me,” said Williams. “It has allowed me to see situations from a new perspective. I have also learned to speak up and to face my fears. My new motto is: ‘If you want it, go get it.’”

 

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 was created 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.

 

“These women were just amazing,” said Bluefield NOSW director Meg Quinn about the 2016 class. “It was amazing to see them come in and grow and realize that they are worth something.”

 

Throughout the three-week session, the women participated in self-improvement classes focusing on leadership, self-esteem, computer basics, math and finance, self-defense, creative writing, Appalachian literature, and stress management, among others. They also participated in internships placing them in work environments with businesses in Greater Bluefield. Some were even offered jobs as a result of the internships.

 

“When I came here (to the NOSW program) I was bound in dark, but now I’m bright, and I can shine,” said Casey. “They gave me the chance to face my dreams, took the fear away, and gave me tools to be who I want to be. Most of all, this place has shown me the true meaning of grace.”

 

The NOSW program also featured the study of Appalachian history and culture, which Quinn said is “very important” as they ladies learn “they have a lot to be proud of.” Quinn also said the self-esteem classes and mock interviews were very beneficial to the women as they prepare for the next step after graduating from the program.

 

“They (the NOSW) have made it their mission to instill in me important values,” said Alvarado, “such as self-esteem, self-defense and etiquette.”

 

Riddle also expressed her thanks to everyone involved in making the NOSW possible for her. “What I have gained from this experience is priceless,” she said. “My heart is bursting with gratitude, and I can’t say enough good things about this program. I now look forward to the future, and I know that anything is possible if you believe.”

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Dr. Kristen Moran

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