Nora McClain attended one of the first community-based workshops the New Opportunity School hosted in the summer of 2017. A resident of Laurel County, Kentucky, Nora had been recently widowed and was in depression from that loss. Hoping to coax her out of her shell again, a close family friend invited Nora to attend the event at the Laurel County African American Heritage Center.
Like many women who apply to an NOSW program, Nora was nervous and unsure what the program could do to help her. The loss in her life had filled her with grief and uncertainty about the future. Additionally, having been out of the workforce for several years to care for her children and loved ones, she was overwhelmed by the need to find work, as she was now the sole breadwinner. The barriers to financial stability are challenging for many under-resourced women in Appalachia. But for women of color in the region, the barriers are much greater.
On day one of the program, though still nervous, Nora opened up and shared. For so many women attending an NOSW program, this can be the hardest thing to do. But something magical occurs when attendees see how similar their stories are and they instinctively come together to support each other. Nora continued to share and offer lessons in support that week, and left with a desire to go further in her healing. So she applied to attend the NOSW two-week residential program that fall and continued on her personal growth journey in Berea.
Attending the three-day program in her home community gave Nora the confidence boost she needed to put herself out there again. Then completing the two-week residential program gave her resources and tools she could apply to her personal development. When she saw a new department store was opening in Laurel County, Nora did not hesitate to submit her resume, confidently knowing she had the skills they were looking for in a new hire … and was hired right away! These days, Nora is best known for brightening shoppers’ days with her beautiful smile, something she could not have seen possible just a few short years ago.