Aurora Grant Enables Trinity and Partners to Expand on Prison Education Programs for Women

Collaborative Approach Is Key to “Free to Succeed”

Trinity students and women from Hartford’s Resettlement Program collaborate on a performance featuring their personal reflections through narrative writing, song, and movement. Above, the performers listen to some last-minute coaching from Judy Dworin, right, as they prepare for a
dress rehearsal.  (
Photo by John Atashian)

Hartford, CT, September 22, 2015 – The Aurora Foundation, which supports women and girls in Greater Hartford, has awarded a $20,000 grant to Trinity College and four partner organizations to launch Free to Succeed, a pilot program designed to increase higher education opportunities for women being released from prison in Connecticut.

By forging a collaborative initiative synergizing the strengths of current programming, the Trinity Prison Seminar Series, Capital Community College (CCC), Manchester Community College (MCC), Community Partners in Action, and Judy Dworin Performance Project have created a holistic program providing accessible college-level course offerings, advising, arts engagement, and mentoring for female inmates at York Correctional Institution (YCI), the state’s only prison for women, and pivotal support services after their release to expedite enrollment in associate degree programs at CCC and MCC.

At Trinity, Judy Dworin, professor of theater and dance, emerita, and Sheila Fisher, professor of English and coordinator of the Trinity Prison Seminar Series, were instrumental in developing Free to Succeed, the goal of which is to ensure that participating women, who begin taking college classes while still incarcerated, are able to complete an associate’s degree upon release.

Since 2005, Dworin’s nonprofit organization, Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP), has offered comprehensive arts outreach programs for women, children, and families affected by incarceration. The Trinity Prison Seminar Series (TPSS), since 2012, has provided post-secondary credit-bearing courses for women incarcerated at YCI. Read more about TPSS and other prison education outreach efforts at Trinity College, which provide educational opportunities for Trinity undergraduates to investigate critical issues concerning the correctional system through reading and discussion, as well as through field study.

The Aurora Foundation, which partnered with the Farmington Bank Community Foundation to support Free to Succeed, is currently focusing strategic grant making and community initiatives in the areas of college readiness and retention, based on findings from the organization’s 2014 Aurora Report indicating that college completion is critical to a woman’s economic stability and well-being, as well as that of her family. Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney will be the keynote speaker at the foundation’s 10th Annual Signature Breakfast, the theme of which is “Driving Change for Women,” on Friday, October 16. For more information about the event, click here.