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My name is Ashley Kazouh and I am a dual degree MSW/MPA candidate at UNC Chapel Hill. I want to first thank you for joining me on my journey as a intern at Communities in Schools Chatham County. Each week I will be sharing a my thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned in this position. All I ask is that you keep your arms and legs’ inside at all times and enjoy the ride!

Let’s start with a sneak peak into the history of Communities in Schools Chatham County. CIS Chatham County began as another organization called Chatham County Together! They were established in 1989 in response to the lack of delinquency prevention services for at-risk youth in Chatham County. In 2014, the organization officially became an affiliate of the national Communities in Schools program. Because many of the youth of Chatham County still face the same issues, in addition to new ones (including lack of reliable transportation, lack of after-school programs, poverty, trauma, and issues around immigration) CIS has a variety of programs that further their mission of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Want more information? Run on over to their website and learn more! (FYI: Its hyperlinked to their name)

Now that you have a little knowledge about the organization, and hopefully visited their website, let’s talk about me! I started my internship on May 14th and I have enjoyed everything from interactions with co-workers to running across the street for a brownie (keep the part about the brownie to yourself please). One thing about my experience so far, that has jumped out at me, is my own privilege. While many times I would describe myself as a poor graduate student (I am open to all donations to fund my education), I have had to check my own privilege every time I walk in the door. While I did not grow up in a very affluent family I have never had to overcome the challenges that many of the youth in Chatham County live with on a daily basis.

On my first day, during my orientation, I was informed of the challenges that many families face. One that struck me was the lack of reliable transportation. While I have definitely known people without cars, I have never seen a whole community faced with this challenge and not be able to walk where they needed to go.

Sidebar: If you didn’t already know, Chatham County encompasses a rural area and it is just not possible for many folks to get around without reliable transportation.

Again, I am not a stranger to needing to find alternative forms of transportation, but when a co-worker explained to me that some of the students in Chatham County have never been inside of a grocery store or been outside of Siler City, it brought on a slew of emotions in me. I was so angry when I heard this, and honestly I am still angry about it, but now I am more passionate than ever about ensuring that every child has the support, resources, and encouragement they need to  succeed in all facets of life.

With all that being said, I am so excited to be a part of this organization, in this community, and at this time.

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