Women in Transition: Providing Women Support and direction in their Transition
Cuyahoga Community College’s Women in Transition (W.I.T.) program offers women a unique combination of support and education to help women move their lives forward in times of transition.
Since 1978, the W.I.T. program has enrolled thousands of women who are in various stages of their lives such as divorce, unemployment, widowed, recently returning to the workforce, or feeling “stuck.” Their unique personalized approach supports and educates women through their program that combines personal development, basic computer, career exploration, and scavenger hunts. The free non-credited, 6-week program holds sessions three days a week. The educational aspects of the program combined with what is described as a “strong sisterly support system,” create an environment that cultivates the individual.
Transition is defined as the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. Many of the women who enrolled and completed W.I.T. claim to have emerged from the program in a better place than when they began. Tierra Banks, a graduate of 2015, is a star example.
“Womanhood is chaotic,” explains Banks, “I was a new wife and mother and my husband had just injured his leg and to be completely honest, I believe I had become depressed.” She was introduced to the program by an associate of her sister who was going through a similar program in North Carolina. “Women in transition became like the big sister I didn’t know I needed at the time. I felt like they saw me for who I really was and not what I was going through.” Banks continued, “The thought of a college can be intimidating.” She explained how the different components of the program all served a purpose in her development. “The activities they put into place like the scavenger hunt made us comfortable with the idea of being in a college. They gave us clues to send us to places like the counselor’s office and financial aid. It all made the thought of walking into a college a lot easier.” Banks went on to graduate from the Women in the Transition program, then from Cuyahoga Community College, and finally from Cleveland State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“Even after I graduated, they were there,” said Banks. “They [W.I.T] wrote recommendation letters and advised me of scholarships. I was asked to deliver a speech alongside Mayor Annette Blackwell at our Graduation. It was such an honor. I would advise any woman who is going through a transition in their lives, or just want something more to go through the program.”
The program graduates around 400 women per year. It was initially deemed a pilot program by the Ohio general assembly, the program referred to as The Displaced Homemakers Program. The program was initially started to provide resources and services to women who had been divorced, with limited skills, and women who no longer had financial security.
The name changed to Women in Transition in 2006 and continues to serve women experiencing any form of transition. As more women entered the program, it not only focused on social services but also began to make secondary education available to its students. W.I.T. currently focuses on degree completion and skill development for those seeking employment in the workforce.
Cicely Campbell, current director of the W.I.T program at Eastern Campus, has had the luxury of experiencing the program from various perspectives. Cicely Campbell is a Cleveland native and says she encountered the W.I.T. program back in 2009 as she returned to Cleveland amid her own transition.
Cicely Campbell had returned to Cleveland with a master’s in social work but was not licensed to practice in the state of Ohio. While attempting to obtain a daycare voucher for her son, she was informed that she had to complete hours with a work experience program. Having a history of working with a women’s transitional housing program, she began as a volunteer with the W.I.T. program. Within a year she became the manager in the program managing a financial literacy grant at Tri-C’s Metro Campus.
She eventually began working at Tri-C’s Eastern Campus where she moved on to fill a variety of roles within the program. She became: the Assistant to the Director, Interim Program Manager; and then director and student advisor.
“Women in Transition gives women the opportunity to focus on themselves,” says Campbell. “We ask questions like ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up and how does Tri-C fit into your picture?’ As time passes, aspirations change, or someone or something destroys our confidence, and we start to hide. What makes [the] W.I.T. program different is that it is associated with a college, and we work with life barriers, traumatic experiences, and offer various resources.”
Campbell moved on to explain exactly what makes the W.I.T program so unique and some of the other ways they empower their students. “We cover personal development, time management, stress management communication style and learning style,” says Campbell. We ask students ‘What is the best way you retain the information?’ Who is in your network? Who is supporting you versus hindering you from moving forward? How do you surround yourself with positive people?”
“Women are natural nurturers,” Campbell continued. “We tend to take care of everyone but ourselves. We don’t know how, so eventually some women can start to feel stuck. This program allows an opportunity for women to have a support system as they make their plan to move their lives forward.”
The transition comes in different forms for different people. Some may have made a great many accomplishments and still reach a point where they need guidance, support, and direction. Portia Booker graduated from Cuyahoga Community College and went on to Kent State University pursuing her degree in Broadcast News. She eventually began working with an NBC news affiliate as a TV producer.
In 2018, she returned to Cleveland to care for her ailing mother. She decided to enroll in Women in Transition after encountering it for the second time. “When I finally decided to enroll in Women in Transition, that was this year in July. I was in the process of changing careers. I had quit my corporate job. I said I want something better for my life I know that there is more, there is a bigger purpose for Portia here, a way bigger one.”
She completed her course in October of this year. One of the ways that she benefited from the program was by finding her confidence again.
“I think the class really made me feel more concrete as far as my thoughts like my thoughts weren’t just oh you’re dreaming too big or you’re thinking abstract.” Portia explained, “It really validated that my thoughts were valid, my feelings were valid. Everything that I was feeling or has aspired to be as valid for this reason because I knew I wanted more.”
She is currently in the process of going back to school to pursue her master’s degree. She also hosts her own radio show called GroovewithPortia and is the co-host of a podcast with NAMI of Greater Cleveland called NotAloneintheLandPodcast.
Change and transition is an inevitable part of life as nothing stays the same but what can change for many is the ability to receive support, guidance, and motivation to make their transition a positive one.
The class is currently being offered both virtually and in person. The next session begins on January 24, 2022. Registration ends January 18, 2022. The following is a link to an updated flyer.
For more information or pre-registration please visit the website at www.tri-c.edu/WIT or call your local campus.
- Eastern Campus-216-987-2272
- Metropolitan Campus-216-987-4974
- Western Campus-216-987-5091
- Westshore Campus-216-987-5764
Nailah Muhammad – West Campus