Cuyahoga Community College’s Women in Transition (W.I.T.) program offers women a unique combination of support and education to help women move forward during challenging times in their lives.
Since 1978, the W.I.T. program has enrolled thousands of women who are experiencing divorce, unemployment, widowed, a recent return to the workforce, or feeling “stuck.” W.I.T’s unique personalized approach supports and educates women, as thee program combines personal development, basic computer skills, career exploration, and even scavenger hunts. The free non-credited, 6-week program holds sessions three days per week. It combines the educational aspects of the program combined with what is described as a strong sisterly support system, creating 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 the program claim to have emerged from the program in a better place than when they began.
Tierra Banks, graduate of the program in 2015 speaks highly of W.I.T. “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 from 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.”
“The thought of a college can be intimidating.” Banks continues. 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,” Banks adds “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 Transition program, then from Cuyahoga Community College and then finally Cleveland State University with a bachelor’s degree in Social work.
“Even after I graduated they were there,” Banks adds. “They 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 known as The Displaced Homemakers Program, funded as a pilot through the Ohio General Assembly. It was 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. With the population of women entering the program evolving, it not only focused on social services, but also began to make secondary education available to its students. W.T.T. currently focuses on degree completion and skill development for those seeking employment in the workforce.
Cicely Campbell, director of the W.I.T program, 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 here in the midst of her own transition.
Cicely Campbell had come back to Cleveland with a master’s degree 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 from the Tri-C 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, 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 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 explains exactly what makes the W.I.T program unique, and some of the other ways it empowers their students. “We cover personal development, time management, stress management communication style and learning style,” she says. “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 continues. “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.”
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 then went on to Kent State University pursuing her degree in Broadcast News. She eventually began started working with an NBC news affiliate in Oklahoma 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 the program helped her was by helping her gain her confidence back. “I think the class really made me feel more concrete as far as my thoughts, like my thoughts weren’t just oh your 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 was valid for this reason because I knew I wanted more.”
Booker is currently in the process of going back to school to pursue her master’s degree. She also hosts her own Radio show called “Groove with Portia” and is the co-host of a podcast with NAMI of Greater Cleveland called Not Alone in the Land Podcast.
Change and transition in life 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 online. The next session begins January 24, 2022. Registration ends January 18, 2022.
For more information or pre-registration please visit the website at www.tri-c.edu/WIT or call your local campus. At the bottom is a link to the Spring 2022 program flyer. Sessions begin in late January.
- Eastern Campus-216-987-2272
- Metropolitan Campus-216-987-4974
- Western Campus-216-987-5091
- Westshore Campus-216-987-5764
NOTE: Cuyahoga Community College has designated Women in Transition for “Giving Tuesday” in 2021. Here’s a link if you wish to support its work: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/tricgivingtuesday2021?bblinkid=255097684&bbemailid=34140211&bbejrid=2129365437
Writer Nailah Muhammad is a Fall 2021 MJS 2010 Newswriting student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org