By Jill McMahon
As an intern at CEF this summer, the highlight of my weeks was coming to Sunday’s Opportunity Class. CEF’s Sunday Opportunity Class is specifically for women at HomeStart shelter in Chapel Hill. In the hands of class facilitators Shawn and Alex, Sunday’s class is a warm, safe, and treasured space for us to come together and share our stories.
Shawn, a Philadelphia native, has just surpassed her one-year anniversary with working at CEF. Shawn’s journey to Chapel Hill began in 2012. After getting laid off from a job, Shawn was looking for a new start. After an extensive search of different cities up and down the East Coast, Shawn landed in Raleigh, NC. Shawn got connected with CEF when she stayed briefly at HomeStart. Shawn started to attend Opportunity Class and worked with Alex on resumes and job searches. After a month at HomeStart, Shawn landed a job at DSS and eventually, earned her job as an administrative support associate at UNC, where she works today.
Shawn’s positive energy and welcoming demeanor sets the tone for the inspiration and interaction we have at Opportunity Class. When I asked Shawn what CEF means to her, she responded that CEF has changed her perception of how she views the world. She feels that CEF truly cares about people and it reinforces her belief that we are all connected. No matter what our situation is, Shawn says “it does not define who we are.”
Shawn’s favorite aspect of opportunity class is the overall support and encouragement we all receive from attending. Shawn said, “we share things without judgment and everyone’s opinions are valid.” Shawn believes the topics we talk about in class are essential experiences. The shared connection we get from each other in that space provides an environment for growth. Getting to know Shawn and the other women from class this summer has been a great privilege. At CEF, change is facilitated through relationships. Shawn exemplifies the work of CEF through her passion for others. Shawn said, “Being able to work at CEF makes me feel good. The hardships we face are just something that we pass through on our journey in life. We all want each other to succeed.”