Trinity Psychology Majors Publish Op-Ed in Hartford Courant

Child Development Research Project Inspires them to Champion Importance of Mentors

Hartford, CT, January 29, 2015 – As part of a Community Learning Initiative (CLI) course in child development that they took fall semester with Associate Professor of Psychology Dina Anselmi, Julia Leahy ’16 and Andi Nicholson ’17 researched the issue of drop-outs in Hartford Public Schools. While collaborating on a public policy research project for the class, the two psychology majors became familiar with the work of the Peacebuilders Program and observed the pivotal difference that mentors can make in children’s lives.

Leahy and Nicholson (pictured in photo at right with Nicholson on left side) were so impressed with Peacebuilders and the strides the program has made in addressing the city’s high school drop-out rate, that they submitted an opinion piece about it to the Hartford Courant, and saw it published by the newspaper over Trinity’s winter break. Their article, “Keep Mentors to Keep Hartford Students in School,” argues eloquently that at-risk students are receiving critical support from Peacebuilders mentors, but the city’s funding for the program will soon run out.

“The purpose of this CLI project,” explained Anselmi, “is for students to think about themselves as agents of change, who can harness their academic skills in the service of solving a problem that they have identified in the greater Hartford community that affects children or families. The key is that they have to talk to community members and that is what Julia and Andi did so well by immersing themselves in the issue of drop-outs and connecting with the Peacebuilders program.” 

Leahy said, “This project opened my eyes to certain areas in the community that are struggling. Taking this course (and others) at Trinity has provided me with learning opportunities I would not have if I did not attend college in an urban area.”

Leahy and Nicholson, as well as the class teaching assistant, Natalie Behenna ’15, are members of the Trinity women’s soccer team. Just as with the practice and preparation that is called for on the soccer field, they said they needed to put in long hours to complete their research project for the class, but the rewards were well worth it.

At first, said Nicholson, “the semester-long project seemed daunting, but throughout the whole process, Professor Anselmi and our TA, Natalie, were encouraging us, supporting us, and making us feel like we could make a difference.”

In addition, Leahy and Nicholson said they received excellent coaching from Tennyson O’Donnell, director of Trinity’s Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric, who advised them to read other op-ed pieces to prepare for writing theirs, assisted them in developing their outline, and helped them adhere to the word count required by the newspaper for op-ed submissions.

(Photo by John Atashian.)