“Appreciating the Joy and Community of Hartford”: Vianna Iorio ’19 Answers Five Questions about Community Learning

Vianna Iorio ’19 is a junior Educational Studies and English Double Major from Shirley, NY. She currently serves as a First-Year Mentor for CLI’s Community Action Gateway, works as a Writing Center tutor, and is President of Trinity’s Mock Trial team. Read more of her writing in her recent Hartford Courant op-ed “Unraveling White Privilege at Trinity.”

1. What community learning courses have you taken, and why did you sign up for them?

My first semester at Trinity, I took ED 200, Analyzing Schools, without knowing anything about community learning or how CLI (Community Learning Initiative) courses are different from traditional courses. Acting as a participant observer in a Hartford classroom through ED 200 helped me form meaningful relationships with children in the community and also better understand the educational theory I was learning in class. I went on to work as a Teaching Assistant for ED 200 in the fall of my sophomore year.

As a First Year, I also took the Cities Suburbs and Schools Seminar (ED 308), which, like ED 200, I signed up for knowing little about. However, on the very first day of class, our professor Jack Dougherty had the whole class take the Hartford bus downtown, where we visited different sites throughout the area and learned firsthand how Hartford parents would access information about school choice. The experience made me consider essential questions about access to school choice information that I would not have arrived at organically through a traditional classroom experience, like what kind of literacy is needed to understand Hartford’s complex school choice system? Who has access to this literacy? What kind of families are schools (particularly magnet schools) trying to attract, and how does this impact the kind of education Hartford children receive?

This year, I am taking PSYC 295, Child Development with Professor Dina Anselmi, which includes a community learning component where students take on a public policy issue related to child development and collaborate with a community expert to propose a solution to that issue. I chose to take this course because I am interested in doing my senior Educational Studies research on childhood trauma and pedagogy, particularly in the Hartford community. Finally, I am a First-Year Mentor for the Community Action Gateway Program, where students partner with Hartford organization to learn about, and later participate in, social change.

2. How does community learning fit in with an English and educational studies double major? Why take on the added work of community learning?

Community learning fits perfectly with my English and Educational Studies double major. I think it is easy to see how Ed Studies impacts the community, but sometimes that is more difficult with English. It is easy to view being an English major in a vacuum of old novels, textual analysis papers, and academic discussions of literary theory, all of which I love dearly, but my English major feels essential and urgent to me because of the way it informs how I view the world and more specifically how I view my community here in Hartford. The kinds of critical thinking about texts and their historical contexts that we are asked to do in my English classes has helped me think about empathy, place, and community in ways that orient and motivate my involvement in community learning. And Educational Studies allows me to take these ideas and values I’ve developed through my English major, and apply them to community learning through an interdisciplinary lens.

3. Has community learning changed how you think about Hartford and Trinity’s place in the city?

Community learning has made me both appreciate the joy and community of Hartford and also feel a personal responsibility to be an agent of positive change. Trinity’s place in Hartford should not be within a bubble; there is so much we can learn from and give to the city.

4. How have your community learning experiences influenced your time at Trinity? Have they changed your future goals? Affected what kind of classes and programs you want to take in the future? How did community learning make a difference for you?

My community learning experiences have definitely made me more passionate and more excited about using what I have learned in the classroom to solve real world issues. In ED 200, I spent around 30 hours in a 6th grade reading class at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, where I was able to see theories of learning I read about in the traditional portion of the course play out in the education of the 6th grade students. The experience made me consider the kind of teacher I hope to eventually become, particularly at the end of the semester when we each planned curriculum proposals that incorporated “teaching for change” strategies we believed would best help the children we worked with throughout the semester.

Through the lens of my Educational Studies and English majors, community learning at Trinity has really shaped my belief that public education is one of the most powerful means of social change. Community learning has helped me better understand the complexity of educational inequality, and also hopeful for the potential for future change.

5. Why do you think other Trinity students should consider getting involved in CLI?

Community learning is a great way to feel connected to Hartford and Trinity. I think all students should try to get involved in CLI because it really helps you view your education at Trinity as interdisciplinary and applicable. I also believe community learning can help Trinity students see themselves as lifelong learners and problem solvers, even as many of us will our time in the traditional classroom upon graduation.

Want to get involved with CLI? Check out available opportunities on our Student Pathways page; sign up for our mailing list; or email Megan Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning, to learn more. 

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