A Community-Helping Community 

One of the main values that Trinity head football coach Jeff Devanney tries to stress to his players is the importance of community. Supporting community within the team, community within the school, and community within the city of Hartford are multiple ways in which a Trinity College football player can get involved. Devanney has introduced multiple ways for his players to get involved with the city of Hartford through community service. Chris Doval ’10, Thomas Kilgore ’11, and Harry Melendez ’11 are just a few Bantam players who have taken on this challenge.

All three student-athletes are involved with a mentoring program at either the McDonough or Donohue Elementary/Middle School, visiting students in the range of third to fifth grade once a week, and doing whatever they can to make an impact on the students' life.

A typical day in the program can change on a weekly basis; it’s all up to the kids.
“Basically what I do every Friday is go down there and just hang out with the kids, talk to them about any problems they may be having in school, and just be involved in any activities that they want to do,” Melendez explains. “I cater to their needs and do whatever they want to do that day.”

Melendez is a particularly interesting case of goodwill because of where he grew up. Through firsthand experience, he understands how useful community service can be.
“I’m from a neighborhood similar to Hartford, so I know the benefits of community service and how it can benefit kids. Since I’m going to be here for four years, I think it’s good to give back to the community. I just want to try to help out these kids and give them some guidance and let them know that it is possible for them to do good things in life such as play sports while you’re going to college.”

The most rewarding aspect of community service for all three of these participants is the comfort level the kids feel with older people that they look up to.

“I think it’s good that they see college students that have been through what they’re going through,” Melendez explains. “The kids also become comfortable enough to ask any questions that they have about schoolwork or anything like that. We can also answer questions about college, which is important because we give them something to look forward to in their education.”

“I think its cool for them to have an older kid to hang out with and talk to,” added Kilgore. “I know when I was back in sixth grade that anyone over the age of fifteen was like the coolest person in the world to me. I feel that they’ll listen to everything I say, and it’s encouraging for them to know that an older kid cares about them.”

Kilgore had a similar upbringing to Melendez, and he attributes his success to his involvement with the this type of program.

“I feel that it’s very important that I spread out and help as many people as I can. I know when I was growing up I had a great support system that really helped me do well, so I’m trying to carry that over to others.”

Kilgore also realizes how important his involvement is and what it actually means to these kids.

“The knowledge that I’m doing something valuable by spending an hour making a difference in someone’s life is rewarding to me. That one hour probably means more to these kids than I could ever imagine.”

Junior Chris Doval has never gotten the opportunity to participate in a program like this, but his love for kids drew him in.

“Back home, I never got the opportunity to participate in community service because my high school didn’t offer it. Once I realized the opportunities present here in Hartford, I really jumped on it. I’ve always loved kids. When I’m back home, I try to be a summer-camp counselor whenever I can, so I thought, why not? I’m not really doing much outside of school and football, so why not give my extra time to these kids who need it?”

He’s glad he’s finally gotten the chance to be involved and immediately realized how rewarding it can be.

“I got an idea of just how satisfying community service can be when my mentee didn’t want me to leave one day. He just hated when I had to leave, so I realized how much that one hour a week means to him. That’s when I really realized how personally satisfying community service could be because I really touched him.”

It’s been such a pleasurable experience for Doval that not only does his mentee enjoy their time together, but Doval always wants more as well.

“Normally I participate once a week for about an hour. Every time I do, I want to stay longer, but our time is restricted to that one hour.”

It is difficult for young students to feel part of a community in a big city such as Hartford. However, with a school like Trinity College present within that big community, it gives those students something to strive for. It’s important for student-athletes such as Melendez, Kilgore, and Doval to get involved and to help these young students stay focused and strive to do whatever they want to do. It’s obvious that the efforts of a community such as the Trinity football team within the surrounding community of Hartford go a long way.