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Finding a Home on Campus and in Hartford Through Connections at Trinfo

Kashwani Aarons ’24

When Kashwani Aarons ‘24 first visited Trinity as a prospective IDP student from Jamaica, she didn’t imagine she would come to view Broad Street as her home. Now, Aarons lives on Broad Street, and after a summer of working at Trinfo, she feels deeply connected to the community. She started as a student at Trinity in January and wasn’t very involved during her first semester. That changed quickly when she got a job working at Trinfo for the summer. She was one of the co-leaders of the summer youth programming collaboration with OPMAD, enjoyed working at the front desk, and connected with the Trinity and Hartford communities in new ways.

Aarons first visited Trinfo this past April when she needed to file her taxes. She looked up the nearest tax preparation site and got an appointment at the VITA clinic at Trinfo. “When I came inside for VITA, I saw the couches and environment at Trinfo and I thought ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was right beside me.’ I didn’t know it was part of Trinity.” A couple of weeks later, she saw a posting for a student job at Trinfo. “I thought, ‘this is meant to be,’” she says.

She was nervous for her interview with Carlos Espinosa, Director of Trinfo and the Office of Community Relations, but describes, “He told me about an experience he had visiting Jamaica, then I found out that he was Cuban, and it felt like everything was coming together.”

Aarons took on a leadership role shortly after starting at Trinfo in early May. The Trinfo student staff were working with Espinosa and Karolina Barrientos, Program Manager at Trinfo, to put together a curriculum for an OPMAD summer youth program at Moylan School. The Trinity students were preparing lessons for students in grades K-1 and 2-3 that would be taught two times a week for four weeks in July. “We have a great, long standing partnership with Trinfo,” says Annie Sablon, Program Director at OPMAD, “I remember being a front line staff member many years ago and walking over to Trinfo for programming.”

Aarons with Karolina Barrientos, Program Manager at Trinfo

Aarons and her Trinfo colleagues were tasked with designing a program on climate change and the environmental impact of humans, using a repertoire of past Trinfo youth curricula as inspiration. “I loved how Kashwani immediately took on the leadership role in the curriculum development phase,” Espinosa says, “What makes her the right kind of leader is that she is super collaborative.”

After preparing the curriculum, Aarons and partner teacher Sandeep Thapa ’24 were met with challenges on their first day at the school. They had planned for a tech component to the lessons, but computers weren’t available. This required a quick pivot in the carefully planned curriculum. “That pivot was another example of Kashwani’s skills. Never having taught before, she was able to repurpose a curriculum with her initiative and creativity.” One of Aarons’ and the children’s favorite activities was an arts-and-crafts lesson meant to teach about reusing and recycling. The children made stuffed animals using plastic bags as stuffing, an idea suggested by fellow Trinfo student staff member Keyla Torres ’24.

“It was Kashwani’s leadership that made this a successful experience for the kids given the constraints we were under. To be doing this for the first time shows the type of student she is and the type of leader she will become,” says Espinosa.

Left to right: Karolina Barrientos, Ray Alvarez-Adorno ’23, Kaswhani Aarons ’24, Keyla Torres ’24, Carlos Espinosa, Sandeep Thapa ’24

After wrapping up the programming at Moylan School, Aarons spent the rest of the summer working at the front desk and help desk at Trinfo. Aarons loves working at the front desk, where she gets to meet and talk with everyone who comes in. She typically talks with 5 or 6 patrons each shift, most of whom stay for at least two hours checking their email, applying for jobs, or relaxing and watching the news. “I get to know people more, people who live just behind me and who are my neighbors. If I see them outside of Trinfo, I say hi to them, and I feel like this is my community,” she adds.

Aarons notes that she hopes more Trinity students will come and experience the welcoming space at Trinfo. “Trinfo is open to students, too! If students want an alternative to the library, they can come here to a quiet and comfortable place. It is here for Hartford residents, absolutely, but here for students as well, especially if they want to make connections with the community.”

Aarons favorite part of working at Trinfo so far has been meeting people and finding a community in Hartford. “I didn’t think that would happen,” she says, “I thought I would find a community at Trinity, but I did not expect to have a community in Hartford and feel like Hartford was home. My favorite part is now being able to feel at home in Hartford.”

This semester, Aarons is looking forward to being more involved on campus through student groups through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, research in the biology department, and planning events. “I’m excited to know I have Trinfo as a grounding point where I feel most safe and most comfortable,” she says, “Because of the connections I’ve made over the summer, it will be easier this semester and more rewarding.”

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