DeNeuville Assists Women on Life’s Journey

By Jeremy Park

Last week we shared the success story of a high school student who overcame tremendous adversity to recently be awarded a $200,000 full-ride scholarship to Brown University. This week let us discuss an organization that is working to assist women of all backgrounds and cultures in learning the skills needed to make positive choices for themselves and their families: DeNeuville Learning Center.

The establishment of DeNeuville Learning Center dates back to Aug. 8, 1997, when DeNeuville Heights School for Girls, operated by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, closed its doors after 33 years of faithful service. DeNeuville Heights School for Girls was an in-depth residential rehabilitation and education program. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd proved to be so successful in helping these young women that Bishop Terry Steib requested they stay here in Memphis and embark on a new venture. With help from the Assisi Foundation, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd opened the DeNeuville Learning Center on April 13, 1998. They now operate an 8,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility at 190 S. Cooper St.

Over the last 15 years, the staff of DeNeuville, led by Sister Lakshmie Napagoda, have empowered more than 1,500 women. These women come to DeNeuville from all walks of life and almost 40 different countries, with many having never attended school or making it past the ninth grade with very low reading and math skills. Since many other programs will not accept adults who are starting at these basic levels, DeNeuville prides itself on meeting the needs of these women wherever they are on their life and educational journey.

The services and programs offered at DeNeuville are part of a comprehensive, holistic approach that focuses on educational, social, emotional, spiritual and economic needs. They offer classes in computer studies, GED preparation, English as a Second Language, Job Readiness and search assistance, Citizen Test Preparation classes, and arts and crafts, like sewing and cake decorating. They also assist with babysitting and emergency needs. DeNeuville’s flexible learning environment allows women to work at their own pace, so they can address any obstacles to learning and realize their full potential.

There are many easy ways to get involved and help the efforts of the DeNeuville Learning Center. Currently, they are in need of volunteers to help GED students with reading, science, writing and social studies. They could also use volunteers for childcare, helping at the reception desk, or teaching cake decorating or flower arranging.

Learn more at www.deneuvillecenter.org or contact their incoming executive director, Lori Bramlett at 726-5902. Personally, I want to thank Sister Lakshmie for 15 years of leadership and dedication. She recently was assigned a new adventure by the Good Shepherd Sisters and we wish her best of luck!

Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).