AMANDA HAUSMANN ’21
Trinity’s new community learning and engagement group CHER, Center for Hartford Engagement and Research, is offering community learning courses this spring semester and is accepting applications for the Liberal Arts Action Lab (LAAL) until Wednesday, Oct. 24. The courses are Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford, Art and Community, Analyzing Schools, Teaching and Learning, Environmental Geophysics, Hispanic Hartford, Queer Rhetorics, Arts in Education, and Geography of Transport. Each community learning course integrates participation community involvement and civic engagement into its curriculum such as Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford in which students will be trained on preparing income taxes and required to volunteer weekly at Trinity VITA Tax Clinic helping Hartford residents prepare their taxes. As stated on the CHER website, the ultimate goal of community learning courses is to “foster academic collaborations among students, faculty, and community partners by extending the boundaries of the classroom into the local community.”
The LAAL projects that are available to apply for are the Culinary Careers Project, in which students are partnered with the Billings Forge Community Works; the Neighborhood Needs Project, where students are partnered with Southwest and Behind the Rocks Neighborhood Revitalization Zone; the Student Success Project, where students are partnered with the West Indian Foundation; the Colt Park Project, where students are partnered with the National Parks Service; the LatinX Theater Project, where students are partnered with Hartford Stage; and Riverside Recapture Project, where students are partnered with Riverfront Recapture. Each project was proposed by its affiliated Hartford organization or partner and was approved by civically engaged individuals in Hartford who are members of LAAL’s Hartford Advisory Board.
The creation of CHER was announced on Sept. 5 of this year, establishing a new group that brings together the ongoing community learning and engagement efforts that previously acted independently at Trinity. The 5 programs that embody CHER are Community Learning, which includes community learning courses, the Community Action Gateway Program, and Public Humanities Collaborative summer research, Community Service and Civic Engagement, the Liberal Arts Action Lab, Trinfo.Café, and Urban Educational Initiatives, which facilitates connections between Trinity and nearby public schools. Regarding how CHER impacts the way community learning and engagement takes place at Trinity, CHER Communications and Data Assistant Erica Crowley stated that “CHER helps to build lasting relationships with community partners, making them easier to reach out to in the future, and eliminating some of the skepticism some partners may have about taking on Trinity students for just a semester-long project.”
Additionally, Crowley described how CHER’s consolidation of Trinity’s community learning and engagement opportunities should help meet students’ “growing demand for community learning opportunities as Trinity’s student body shifts in terms of the amount of students who are attracted to this of social action work.” Crowley added that “many of the opportunities that students have access to through CHER, students at other colleges wouldn’t have access to in a place that isn’t Hartford due to Hartford’s long history of being leaders on important issues. Hartford is full of activists and people that really love the place they are living and working in.” Trinity students can enroll in the new community learning courses at the end of the fall semester, however, the deadline for enrolling in LAAL is this Wednesday, Oct. 24.