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Each Tuesday afternoon during the fall semester, Elida Terry ’02 (West Hartford, Conn.) settled down in front of a TV set with a group of women to watch Dr. Phil on “Oprah.”

For Terry, a studio art major and women’s studies minor, the session was more than a time to kick back. The TV was located at a downtown Easton homeless shelter and the women were part of a welfare-to-work program.

“We watched the show because it offers the women a time to relax as well as learn how to cope with life situations,” says Terry, who worked as an intern for the People Acquiring Skills for Success, or PASSkey, program each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. “After the show, we would have an hour-long wrap-up session in which the women could evaluate their own experiences. It’s a good way for the women to share their stories and advice with one another.”

Terry was worried at first that the women wouldn’t welcome a college student and would think she was looking down on them.

“I learned I didn’t have to be afraid,” she said. “They really opened up.”

Many of the women who participate in the program are Terry’s age, but already have children and have suffered the pain of abuse and addiction.

“I was just taken aback by how brave they are,” Terry says. “They can do anything and they will.”

Penny Piper, the program’s director of career services, says Terry immediately identified with the women in the program, listened to their problems, and helped them devise plans for a better future.

“She could bring in what’s happened to her, what’s happened to her friends,” Piper says. “They realized that she can have her heart broken too.”

Piper adds that Terry adapted quickly to the ever-changing needs of the women in the program and was able to work well with women of all ages, doing everything from helping them prepare resumes to offering a shoulder to cry on.

Terry also researched issues such as homelessness and domestic abuse as part of the for-credit internship. She is grateful for the chance to learn about those issues firsthand.

“Lafayette offers a tremendous amount of opportunities for its students,” she says. “The best part of it is that the professors are so willing to help you. I feel quite close to my professors at Lafayette. They really want to see you do well.”

In addition to her internship, Terry, who hopes to work for a nonprofit organization after graduating, began work this year on a senior honors thesis that includes designing “a traditional women’s magazine that also encompasses feminism.” She also plans to complete a marketing externship at the March of Dimes in White Plains, N.Y., during the January interim session between semesters.

A graduate of Kingswood-Oxford School, Terry is editor of Lafayette’s yearbook and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She has served as an orientation leader for the past three years and as a tour guide during her first two years at Lafayette.

Categorized in: Academic News