In 2005, Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC
became home to the
second New Opportunity School for Women. Originally founded in 1987
by Lees-McRae College alumna Jane
Stephenson (‘57) in Berea, KY, this organization seeks to, “improve
the educational, financial, and personal circumstances of low-income
women,” in the Appalachian region.
seeking 14 low-income women to participate in the New
Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College during the three-week residential program
There is no
cost to the participant. During the program, the women
explore career options, educational goals, and leadership development
as well as a self-esteem boosting curriculum. Weekday mornings and
some evenings are spent in workshops -- topics include computer
training, job search skills, leadership development, Appalachian
Literature, basic math, and creative writing, among several others --
while afternoons are spent at a job internship of interest to the
participant. During evenings and weekends, participants continue
classes and workshops as well as field trips to museum and attendance
at cultural events in our area. The curriculum of the NOSW also
includes a workshop on how to go back to school, receive financial
aid, and take the SAT or ACT.
Graduates of the
New Opportunity School for Women find the experience life-altering.
According to the New Opportunity School for Women in Berea, KY,
“In the past 18 years, over 450 women have completed the School’s
three-week residential program. A recent survey of graduates showed
that 76% are now employed, enrolled in further education, or both.
Graduates of the NOSW are now employed in areas such as social work,
counseling, education, public relations, business, and healthcare
vocations such as nursing and respiratory therapy.” In fact, the
program has been so successful that it was featured on the Oprah
Winfrey Show as part of Oprah’s Angel Network.
Any woman who has
a GED or high school diploma, who is of low income, and who lives in
or hails from the Southern Appalachian region is eligible to attend
the New Opportunity School for Women. Most participants are between
the ages of 30 and 55 and are motivated and eager to learn.