Immanuel Adeola ’14
My face felt the full extent of the cold crisp air with every step I took. The brightness of the sun made me more optimistic about my trip. Each house I passed had its own story to tell, whether it’s about the severe effects of the housing market, the struggles of fitting extended family into a two-family house, or how time can slowly take its toll on an aging house. I come across a mother and her child closely embracing each other for warmth as they eagerly awaited the bus. The kid stared at me as I walked by, probably because I couldn’t help but stare at him and see pieces of myself, especially in his impressive choice of clothing.
We all hear a much different story when we talk about Hartford. An unemployment rate of fifteen percent (almost double the national rate), thirty three percent of the population in poverty (almost triple the national rate), a fledgling educational system, and a crime rate of forty four percent (almost double the national median) has painted a grim picture that has masked the potential of this city. It is undeniable that the current outlook is bleak, and there is much to be done to put the city back on the right track. However, there is also much to admire about this place. Some might call it “dumbfounded optimism” but when I saw those houses, I didn’t see rundown buildings, but rather an extension of the inhabitants’ perseverance. They might not seem physically appealing, but their foundation was still strong and rooted in the community, just like its inhabitants. The young kid and his mother both seemed so happy, even as the harsh cold huffed and puffed on their faces.
When many of us step outside the boundaries of Trinity College, what do we see? Do we see the high unemployment rate? The dilapidated houses? The people who might not necessarily look like us? I think that for too long Trinity students have removed Hartford from their Trinity experience when it should be among the most crucial and useful. It is true that some of us have internships in Hartford, tutor, or even do community service projects on a weekly basis. However, do we try to get to know the city? It comes as no surprise how little the majority of students know about Hartford. Hartford is more than just the insurance capital of the world. It has an impressive history that dates back four hundred years. It is not only one of the oldest cities in the United States, but was also among the wealthiest cities in the country for several decades. It was a huge manufacturing city until the mid 20th century. Though it has waned in economic strength since then, the insurance world has kept Hartford going, but more can be done.
I truly believe that Trinity has a lot to offer this city, and such aid does not just involve financial contributions or community service projects alone. We need to wrap ourselves in the Hartford fabric, and really get to know and understand the community. There is much potential for both sides to engage in cultural, academic, and social exchanges that will not only improve our relationship with the city, but also enhance the academic diversity of our curriculum and bring new ideas into our classrooms. We have seen early phases of such exchanges among certain groups on campus, and such exchanges have produced positive results.
We all know that the relationship between Trinity and the Hartford community is currently not where it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately, I think that there are a number of extenuating circumstances that have pushed us students further away from the community, especially with the number of assaults and confrontations that we have encountered for a while now. That should not discourage us from opening ourselves to the possibilities that Hartford has to offer. The truth of the matter is that we have the ability to positively alter our standing among peer colleges and elevate our status among the top colleges in the country. However, that can only happen when we recognize that Hartford has to be an instrumental ally rather than that distant cousin that everyone avoids unless they really have to talk to him or her.
I would encourage more organizations on campus to initiate programs with schools, shelters, or other local groups in the Hartford community. It can even be a collaborative effort from multiple groups on campus. The important aspect is to ensure that we reach out a hand of friendship to the community and come out of our own shell. It will be a tough and uncompromising journey, especially with the tense atmosphere that has divided both sides for a long time now. However, we need to gradually move ourselves toward a stronger affiliation with the Hartford community, remembering that we are not rivals for power, but partners for progress.