This article originally appeared in StepUp Durham's November newsletter. Their pilot Step2 program, a nine-month curriculum centered on personal development, financial education, and career pathways, has graduated its very first cohort! The graduation ceremony was covered by Mark Ehrhardt, a guest writer from the ReCity Network:
I work for ReCity, a network of mission-minded organizations brought together by the conviction that collaborative relationships lead to collective impact. One of the highlights of my work with ReCity is connecting with what our partner organizations are doing in the community. I have ongoing opportunities to meet and celebrate Durham residents through these partner organizations, to think about the ways that ReCity makes connections to better serve the people of Durham, and to witness how people love one another into more stable lives.
Last week, I had the privilege of joining StepUp for their first Step2 graduation. I witnessed program participants, their family, co-partners, and StepUp staff gathered to celebrate one another and reflect on the community of support they built over the past several months. After a meal provided by Zweli’s Catering, a StepUp Employer, everyone gathered to share appreciation and encouragement—and cake!
Jackie, one of the Step2 participants, described her journey through the StepUp program: “Let me tell you, I’ve gone overboard… I’m in a place now where I’m saving my money. And it’s not just for me. I’m doing this for my family.” Jackie was one of two participants referred to the Step2 program by Partners for Youth Opportunity, a community partner at ReCity that aims to “address the growing ‘opportunity gap’ resulting from the chronic disconnection of Durham youth from economic and educational opportunities.” Jackie’s grandson is in the PYO program, and Jackie felt especially compelled to model consistent program participation through her Step2 process. Jackie went on to share: “One time, my co-partner called just to say ‘Sorry I haven’t called.’ That’s when you know you’ve found someone who cares about you and who’s in your corner. Because who does that? No one does that.”
I saw community at its best that night—a community of support that lives StepUp’s mission to assist “people seeking to improve their lives and develop stable careers” and ReCity’s mission to collaboratively rewrite the story of our city. Keep celebrating and loving the people of Durham, StepUp!
Written by Mark Ehrhardt
Duke Divinity Intern at ReCity Network