Ana Medina ’16
Despite the financial difficulties and after many petitions to the school, WGRAC (Women Gender Resource Action Center) was very pleased to hire Melissa A. Richards as a Program and Training Manager. WGRAC is proud to present itself as a center of support, advocacy, and community. While WGRAC runs many activities, such as discussion groups, guest speakers, SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) training, and awareness programs, it has all been done by Laura Lockwood, the director of WGRAC, and the loyal members of this center. However, once one is immersed into the life of a “WGRACer,” it can be seen that there is no such thing as enough help. While WGRAC did have help from Lauren Donais a year ago, she left upon being offered the opportunity to run her own Women’s Center at UCONN. This left WGRAC with one person less to help in all its activities and so the search began.
Starting in the Fall of 2013, WGRAC members facilitated interviews with potential candidates for Donais’s position. After a hectic search, the members and staff of WGRAC were happy to welcome Richards into their community. While she has only been here a short while, she has already been busy with the Big Sister/Little Sister Program and Promoting Healthy Awareness to the Body (PHAB). In addition to helping with these programs, Richards also helps Lockwood run programming, as well as training workshops for bystander behavior.
Originally from Shelton, Connecticut, Richards found herself moving to New Britain in order to avoid the hour long drive to the University of Connecticut. Having completed her B.A in social work at Southern Connecticut State University, she pursued her Master’s of Social Work at UConn. On her background, Richards comments, “I always knew I wanted to help people and I didn’t want to go into the medical field. With social work it’s very personal, more one on one level and [you] just learn about all the social issues [such as] dating violence and sexual assault. Then you pick your passion and that’s how I wanted to connect with people.”
While only being a recent graduate from UCONN’s School of Social Work, Richards has had extensive experience with Women’s Center. “During my B.A at Southern I worked at a Women’s Center and at UConn I got a professional position at their Women’s Center,” Richards explains on her experience that qualified her for the position. In addition to this, she also worked on a grant from the Department of Justice: Violence Against Women, in which she successfully secured $500,000 in funds to help nine different schools in the state, one of which was Trinity, and Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS). Through her work with this grant, Richards explains how she got into contact with Laura Lockwood, and thus began a network that would be invaluable to Richards.
Now on campus, Richards exclaims that she, “likes [that] it’s small and my experience [has been] with public schools. They were really big so I like that it seems easy to meet everyone. I [also] definitely like the students in WGRAC [and their] commitment and passion.” While her position in WGRAC is only part-time, Richards has big goals in mind for the center. She explains, “Similar to my experience at Southern, so many people made me disappointed when they didn’t know where I worked and my experience here is the same. [At WGRAC] we are a place for everyone, not just feminists or women. There’s support, we plan programs, not only on sexual assault, and we discuss media literacy. Knowing what we are and who we are is basic, but I think it’s a start.”
Richards has quickly stepped up to the plate and been a great support and resource for students. Make sure to stop by the WGRAC lounge in Mather and welcome our newest Trinity staff member.