New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae accepting applications; summer session scheduled for May 31 – June 20

February 27, 2015

The New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW) at Lees-McRae College, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is accepting applications for its three-week residential summer program that helps low-income women gain the skills and confidence to turn their lives around. This summer’s session will be held from May 31 – June 20.

“Our mission is to help women improve their personal, educational and financial circumstances,” said Jennie Harpold, director of the NOSW at Lees-McRae. “Women who would benefit from our program are those who really want to improve their situation, but need access to additional resources. We supply the tools they need to fulfill their potential.” 

Founded in 1987 in Berea, Ky., the New Opportunity School for Women opened an expansion site at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk in 2005. Today, there are four schools located throughout Appalachia. The programs have collectively graduated more than 700 women in the Appalachian region with 76% of the graduates currently employed, enrolled in further education, or both.

“My life has totally changed since attending the New Opportunity School for Women,” said a recent graduate. “I have the opportunity to go back to college, and that’s something I thought would never happen…the program was perfect, the timing was perfect. The program made me realize that life is short and you have to do what you really want to do and you have to stand up for yourself and you also have to give back.”

During the three-week residential session, instruction is provided in many subjects including:  creative writing, public speaking, interviewing and Appalachian literature. Experienced volunteer instructors teach basic accounting, computer and resume writing skills as well as how to navigate the college application process. Women also work on furthering their personal growth. Internships in the local community provide the women with the opportunity to further explore career paths. Women participating in the program attend cultural events, such as concerts, a summer theatre production at Lees-McRae College and a series of lectures related to local Appalachian culture.

Thanks to generous help from individual donors, local churches and local agencies that support women’s initiatives, there is no cost to the students attending this program. In past years, NOSW has received funding from the High Country Women’s Fund and the Appalachian Women’s Fund, which merged to become Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, Inc. Assistance with childcare costs and travel costs are available

Applicants should have or be working toward a GED or high school diploma, be of low-income, and have an interest in a new career and/or higher education.

To apply for this life-changing program, contact Jennie Harpold at or 828-898-8905. Interested parties may download an application from or request one from the NOSW office.  

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