Trinity Representatives Take Part in a Family Re-Union at Vanderbilt

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James Trostle, director of urban initiatives, Denise Best, director of special academic programs, and Carlos Espinosa, outreach coordinator for the Smart Neighborhood Program, were among approximately 100 people from across the country who attended a recent conference at Vanderbilt University designed to explore strategies for developing and sustaining college/community partnerships. The gathering was part of Family Re-Union, a series of annual conferences moderated by former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, that bring together families and those who work with them.

  Denise Best, director of special academic programs, with former Vice President Al Gore.
  IDP student Daniella Anderson with Tipper Gore.

“This was a valuable and unique opportunity to engage in stimulating conversation around the changing shape of the American family and rethink the ways we address the needs of our communities,” explains Best. “Some of the participants were aware of Trinity’s commitment to the Hartford community and asked questions about specific ventures, particularly The Learning Corridor.”

Since its inception in 1992, the Family Re-Union Planning and Development Institute has brought child advocates to Vanderbilt University to talk about the many challenges facing children and families in the United States. At the core of Family Re-Union is the belief that programs and policies should respond to the needs and strengths of families and communities—not to the demands of government bureaucracy. Funded by charitable foundations and individual donors, the conferences provide a lively exchange of ideas among national experts, grassroots program directors, academic researchers, and average citizens. The program includes plenary sessions, roundtable discussions, and independent film presentations.

“The gathering was both exciting and frustrating,” says Trostle. “I was reminded again of how much high-quality community work we are doing for an institution of our size, but I was also confronted by the many constraints faced—and excuses articulated—by colleges and universities not doing as much or as well.”

Daniella Anderson, a Trinity IDP student as well as a wife and mother, was featured in a compelling documentary entitled Aging Out that was screened at the conference. The film chronicles the lives of three young people who transition from adolescence to adulthood, through foster care into the welfare, mental health, and criminal justice systems, or—as in Daniella’s case—college life. Aging Out was written, produced, and directed by the Emmy-winning filmmaker Roger Weisberg and served as the topic for a Sunday evening dialogue, which was followed by a panel discussion that included Daniella and several other young women.

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