New Opportunity School for Women at Maryville College graduates inaugural class

New Opportunity School for Women at Maryville College graduates inaugural class

Aug. 6, 2014

They started out as strangers, but now they’re lifelong friends.

When 10 East Tennessee women arrived on the Maryville College campus on July 13 to participate in the New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW) at Maryville College, a three-week residential program, they did not know what to expect. 

“I didn’t think I could do this – I had low expectations of the program because of me not knowing where I wanted to go,” said Natey Pineda, who attended NOSW at Maryville College this summer. “I am so happy that I came. I have learned so much, and I believe in myself now.”

Pineda and nine other women graduated from the program Saturday during a ceremony held at the Chilhowee Club in Maryville. The women, who are from Blount, Knox, Anderson, Loudon and Monroe counties, make up the first class of the New Opportunity School for Women at Maryville College.

The program was established at Maryville College in 2013 and is designed to improve the educational, financial and personal circumstances of low-income, undereducated, middle-aged women in the Appalachian region. The Women’s Fund of East Tennessee, a fund of the East Tennessee Foundation, provided financial support for the program.

Maryville College provided residence hall accommodations, classrooms, use of educational resources and funding for staffing the program. Metz Culinary Management, the College’s food service provider, provided breakfast and lunch, and individuals, organizations and businesses provided and organized dinner every night. Local businesses provided internship opportunities for the participants.

Out of an urgent need to help women in Appalachia become better educated and better employed, the program was founded in 1987 by Jane Stephenson at Berea College in Kentucky. Building on its success, two additional programs were established at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina and Bluefield College in Virginia. Maryville College is the fourth NOSW program.

Throughout the 21-day program, the women lived in a campus residence hall, completed internships at local businesses, went on field trips and attended classes that covered a range of topics, including computer training, job search skills, leadership development, Appalachian literature, art, personal finance and creative writing.

“The 21-day in-residence program is successful in that our women graduated from the program with a strong sense of self, and they gained life management assets that will help them as they focus on their personal life goals,” said Linda Ueland, director for NOSW at Maryville College. “Three of our graduates have already determined that they want to pursue degrees, while others are re-evaluating where they want to be in their future professionally and within their communities.”

The support of the graduates continues beyond graduation.

“The New Opportunity School for Women provides workshops, reunions and scholarship opportunities and continued networking,” Ueland said. “We will be there to meet their needs.”

During Saturday’s graduation, which included a luncheon attended by the graduates’ families, each woman gave a brief presentation about her experience at the NOSW at Maryville College. Amid laughter and tears, the women expressed gratitude for the program and vowed to never forget each other.

Cherry McFarlin said she was grateful for her “new sisters,” whom she now calls “friends for life.” Latasha Welcome learned that she has been setting her goals too low and should “always set higher goals.”

Barea Montiago said her new personal mission statement is “Not yet there, but I’m on my way.”

“This is an awesome journey we all undertook, and this is an incredible group of women,” Montiago said. “The best days of my life are ahead.”

Jennifer Matthews said she had low self-esteem when she arrived on campus to attend the program.

“But then I woke up – like a butterfly,” she said. “My journey is not done.”

Rebecca Hope said she is grateful to have the “opportunity to witness so many people making investments in the future of others without expecting anything in return.”

She challenged attendees “to go give back.”

“You can’t give from an empty cup, and my cup is full,” she said. “All of us can help someone else.”

NOSW Founder Jane Stephenson also gave remarks, praising the “courageous” graduates.

“It takes so much courage to do this,” said Stephenson, adding that the graduates were joining 770 women who have been part of the NOSW program for the last 27 years. “We are going to hear great things from (these graduates) in the future.”

The NOSW at Maryville College, which offers the program at no cost to the participants, will continue next year.

“On Aug. 2, our graduates made history as being the first to participate in East Tennessee’s NOSW program,” Ueland said. “Good news spreads quickly as on Monday, we received calls from women who are interested in the 2015 program. We look forward to enrolling 14 women into our 2015 program and celebrating with them at their graduation on Aug. 1, 2015!”

The Women’s Fund of East Tennessee, which in 2013 donated a $60,000 grant to bring the NOSW program to Maryville College, has donated an additional $20,000 for next year’s program.  During Saturday’s graduation, the Rev. Dr. Billy Newton, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church, presented a check for $5,000 from Highland Presbyterian Church as a tribute to the Neal and Pat Dunwoody family.

For more information about the NOSW at Maryville College, please contact Linda Ueland at 865.981.8123 or

By Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications 

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”