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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Alternative Service Break Day at Durham Tech

By Daniele Berman, Operations Manager

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to join colleagues from Durham’s Partnership for Children and Made in Durham on the panel of Durham Technical Community College’s first-ever Alternative Service Break Day. We were invited to share with the 15 students who gathered about the connections between poverty and education in Durham and what each of our organizations is doing to address those issues. After the panel, the students from the Center for College and Community Service spent the rest of their afternoon volunteering with me at Book Harvest–helping sort books at our warehouse to get them ready for distribution to children in the very community they had just been learning about.


Every semester, the Center for College and Community Service at Durham Tech publishes over 50 service events for groups of Durham Tech students, faculty, and staff.

Serving our community is important to Durham Tech. In fact, our mission and strategic goals clearly commit us to engaging with our communities in ways that not only help those we serve, but also allow us as a college to learn. Service, in other words, allows us to extend the walls of our classrooms and the boundaries of our campuses, providing students, faculty, and staff with hands-on, real-world experiences while helping others.

Good news: the students at Durham Tech care, and they care deeply. These are up-and-coming nurses, IT professionals, early childhood educators, paralegals, and university students whose roots are here in Durham–and they understand the issues facing children living in poverty and are determined to make a difference.

Take Isabel, a young grandmother who is in school studying to be an oncology nurse. Over lunch, she shared with me how her young son’s battle with cancer led her to her chosen career path. “Money isn’t what makes you happy,” she encouraged her peers. “Helping others is.” In fact, in the four months her son spent in the hospital, Isabel became known among the nurses as the mom who was determined to read all the children on the unit bedtime stories. Once she had put her son Josue asleep, she would make her way around the unit, sharing the gift of a story with the other babies whose parents weren’t able to be there to do it themselves.

Or DeMario, who started in the GED program at age 20 and is now working on his degree in Computer Information Technology. It was the level of care and willingness to go the extra mile of his teachers in the GED program that led him to want to help others: first his peers in the GED program who were struggling with their own work, then others on campus and in the community. He went from a shy member of the Gamers of Durham Club to its secretary and ultimately its president, seeing membership grow from five students to over seventy. He works hard to encourage other members to see beyond their passion for video games to using that passion to develop important skills like worth ethic and communication. And the club is passionate about service: from working with the Durham Tech Foundation to help raise money for scholarships to volunteering with Meals on Wheels, they use their passions to give back to others around them.

I asked Jes Dormady, Volunteer Services Coordinator, what brings the students to the Center for College and Community Service in the first place. For some, it’s an option to fulfill required hours for service learning classes, and for others, it’s part of filling a requirement for funding for other clubs. For many, though, volunteerism is just something they’re passionate about. This is the group’s third visit to Book Harvest, and they keep coming back because they love being part of the work we’re doing.


Want to learn more about the ways Durham Tech students are making a difference in the community? Take a look at their blog, where you can read about all the different service opportunities available to them throughout the year.

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