Mentors Sophie Falcone ‘24 and Cali Minnehan Leonard ’25 playing Uno with mentees

This spring, the current cohort of students in the Jones-Zimmerman Academic Mentoring Program (J-Z AMP) are completing their third and final year in the program.  Middle school students in the program spend three years, from sixth grade through eighth grade, working with Trinity College student mentors. Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) and Trinity College have worked together through J-Z AMP for twenty years to put on the annual program that includes homework help, tutoring, and enrichment activities.

After working with J-Z AMP since fall 2019, Elizabeth Densen ’22 was this year’s lead mentor. Of the growth she’s seen in the HMTCA students throughout their three years she says, “This cohort has had unbelievable change since they were in sixth grade. They have all gone through an immense amount of personal growth.”

Elizabeth Densen ’22 and her mentee taking a break from work to snap a selfie

Densen expands, “I remember working with them in sixth grade and most of them were so shy and insecure in themselves, but sending them off last week, I had to remind myself that these strong-willed and self-assured eighth graders were the same students I had worked with just three years earlier.”

Beatrice Alicea, J-Z AMP Program Coordinator, says that her favorite part about working with J-Z AMP has been “witnessing the mentor-mentee relationships develop, as well as witnessing returning mentors become more confident and competent in their roles. It’s most rewarding seeing the progress that our J-Z AMP participants have made throughout the three years of the cohort.”

An important aspect of J-Z AMP is the way the program builds bridges for both HMTCA students and Trinity College mentors. “This is sometimes the first experience a Trinity student has with the Hartford youth community, and many J-Z AMP participants’ first experience meeting a college student,” Alicea says.

A field trip to Nomads Adventure Quest

Densen notes that she has learned the importance of patience and empathy by working with students in the program. “It is when I’m most uncertain of what to do that I learn the most about who I am as a person. When I take a step back and remind myself that it’s okay to not know what to do sometimes, I’m able to be the best mentor and version of myself that I can be,” she says.

The program has gone through more than the usual transitions over the past three years. During 2020 and 2021, the students and mentors met remotely. For the 2021-2022 academic year, the program returned to in-person at HMTCA. The group gathered in early May and celebrated the last day of the program, and the last day of this cohort’s three-year journey, with pizza, ice cream, and games. Certificates were distributed with superlatives awarded by the Trinity mentors.

Mentors Sierra Little-Gill ‘22 and Maria Vicuna ‘25 playing Sorry! with their mentees

Densen and Alicea agree that it is special to see the growth HMTCA and Trinity students go through in the program. “It’s a unique experience to be able to watch their growth academically, socially, and as individuals,” says Alicea. “I feel so lucky to have witnessed the students’ individual growth, and I can’t wait to see all of the great things their futures have in store,” adds Densen. Participants on both sides are grateful for the chance to connect, learn, and grow together through J-Z AMP.