Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Classroom to Community at Trinity

Trinity College Campus, Hartford, CT

Relationships. It's all about relationships. Relationships are the interpersonal connections among us that build social capital. Social capital is the sum of the relationships enabling a society -- a country, a city, a community -- to function effectively for everyone. Social capital is bound together in networks of relationships, and networks link to connect more people one to the other. Societies rise and fall on their investment in social capital. The stronger the networks, the stronger a society's social fabric. The weaker the networks, the chance of a tear, or, in the extreme, a complete shredding of the social fabric increases. It's simple in concept, but complex in practice. Observing it from afar, listening to a lecture, or reading a textbook doesn't cut it. 

October 3, 2017, marked the launch of Trinity College Assistant Professor Abigail Williamson's Civic Engagement and Community first-year student seminar unit on Social Capital in Hartford, an exercise in community learning. Along with gaining greater understanding of the theories of social capital by discussing it in context to life in Hartford, the unit introduces first-year "students to their role as Hartford residents and potential community members," and encourages them to "contribute to Hartford by publicizing Hartford civic events and the work of selected community leaders." All of this learning culminates in students sharing their Hartford experiences by "writing  blog posts for a general public audience."

To help the students start learning about Hartford, Dr. Williamson invited me to the October 3rd class to share my career and volunteer experiences working in and across Hartford's public, private and non-profit sectors, as well as to offer my blog as an initial forum for sharing their stories. My discussion with the class focused on the issues I see facing Hartford with which I've had first-hand experience -- specifically, city finances, affordable housing, poverty, homelessness, immigrant and refugee services, food insecurity, and education.

During the next several days, RedTruckStonecatcher will feature a series of the students' blog posts. Through them they will share their experiences learning about and participating in Hartford life, and we'll learn right along with them.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

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