One of the most important components of the Community Action Gateway is to help students understand the multiple ways that social change is happening in the city. This semester, the 2020-21 cohort is jumping into social change projects with Mutual Aid Hartford, the CT Hall of Change, NARAL Pro-Choice CT, and the YWCA Hartford. Students and partners alike have been flexible and willing to take on the challenge of working together remotely – meeting regularly over Zoom, allowing flexibility in project plans, and editing products using collaborative platforms.

This academic year has presented an incredible number of challenges and opportunities for all of us. A global pandemic, an election year, economic shifts, calls for racial and gender justice, the realities of social isolation, struggle, and loss alongside attention to community care and discussions of mental health – and the list goes on. The Community Action Gateway has provided an opportunity for students to engage in reflection on social change work and take action in ways that are safe and meaningful. Each week we explore a different topic: the basics of community-based research, developing good interview skills and techniques, analyzing and visualizing data, creating work plans and managing partnerships, building trust with each other and community, making public presentations and communicating about social change issues, reflecting on organizing, movements and self care within this context, and more.

This semester, students also had the opportunity to hear from local and national experts including internationally bestselling author, columnist, blogger, podcaster, playwright, teacher and storyteller Matthew Dicks ’99 from Speak Up Storytelling, Hartford area Historian Steve Thornton from The Shoeleather History Project, anti-racist social justice communications professionals from The Narrative Project, organizers from Mutual Aid Hartford, and more.

As we move through the semester, the Community Action Gateway is also having some fun! Last week mentors Tiana Starks ’21, Renita Washington ’22, Reagan Flynn ’23 and Tiana Sharpe ’23 passed out care packages filled with Community Action sweatshirts, candy and snacks, post-its and highlighters, and a copy of adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. This Friday, they’ll meet up at Mather for dinner and then head to our on-campus movie theater Cinestudio to see Judas and the Black Messiah.


Take a look at our Spring project teams below.

Connecticut Hall of Change

Sam Burg ’24, Tara Iyer ’24 and Essence Smith ’24 with community partners Charlie Grady and Sue Gunderman

The CT Hall of Change is an initiative that recognizes and memorializes formerly incarcerated men and women who have made substantial contributions to their communities since their release. So far, eight individuals have been highlighted by the initiative and they are called “The Great 8.” Moving forward, the CT Hall of Change is interested in answering the question, “How do we challenge the stigma and change the narrative around people who have made a mistake in life? How do we see others as real people who have dealt with mental health challenges, addiction or other challenges in their life?” Charlie Grady has spearheaded the CT Hall of Change initiative and asked for help lifting the profile of The Great 8 program. Students will create a resource folder, social media content, and a brochure to help pitch the stories for a statewide speakers bureau tour.

NARAL Pro-Choice CT and Hartford GYN Center

Alicia Anchondo ’24, Aarti Lamberg ’24 and Abby Nick ’24 with community partners Liz Gustafson and Roxanne Sutocky

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut and community clinic Hartford GYN Center ask for research on what it would take to re-start an abortion fund in Connecticut and how advocates in other cities such as Austin, TX have had recent success (as part of Defund the Police campaigns) redirecting police department funds to human services including funds for abortion and other reproductive health services. This could be in the form of background research and key stakeholder interviews with a report on how this could apply in Hartford. For communications products, NARAL asks for content such as a mock-up web page and print and/or digital materials highlighting reproductive health and related services available in Hartford.

Mutual Aid Hartford

Olivia Domingos ’24, Kash Jain ’24 and Xavier Mercado ’24 

Mutual Aid Hartford is a sustainable community-run network of needs and offers started by people of color and sustained by our neighbors and partners in action (not charity – solidarity). This group came to life as a response to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our communities and organizers recently took a hiatus to plan for a January 2021 relaunch which includes forming a community council, hiring grassroots organizers, launching the community raised “Resist Evictions” fund, and more (see more on the Instagram page and Facebook page). Mutual Aid Hartford asks for help supporting the re-launch: research could include exploring different digital platforms to host a needs/offers site and an exploration of different models of mutual aid in communities (city by city, block-by-block? other strategies?). Communications products for the project will likely include a report with findings, infographics and social media content on mutual aid, alternative economies, and other agreed upon content.

YWCA Hartford

Sab Clumeck ’24, Caroline Frederick ’24, Claire Sabbe ’24 and Sophia Sniffin ’24

The YWCA Hartford’s advocacy and outreach team asks for research and communications help as they prepare for advocacy related to the case of Tianna LaBoy, a young woman inmate at York Correctional facility in Connecticut who was denied medical care and subsequently gave birth in the toilet of her cell. Tianna’s case prompted a series of investigations and calls for Department of Corrections (DOC) medical care regulation over the past few years. The YWCA Hartford requests investigative, background research to better understand this complex issue. This research will include reviewing news articles, public testimony and legal documents, conducting interviews with key stakeholders, and more. The YWCA has asked for the students to create communications products such as one pagers, infographics, and brochures that scale down the larger research into digestible pieces so that coalition partners and members the public can better understand the issue.

In the Community Action Gateway, first-year students learn how to create community change with community activists, neighborhood organizers, government leaders, non-profit directors, journalists, and social entrepreneurs in Hartford. If you have questions about the Gateway, contact Director of Community Learning [email protected]