Projects

At the Action Lab, our starting point for semester-long research projects are questions posed by Hartford community partners, which are prioritized by our Hartford-resident advisory board. The methods we use are as diverse as the partners we work with and the questions we explore together. Some of the more common techniques we use are:

  • GIS mapping and spatial analysis
  • Community surveys
  • Qualitative interviewing
  • Public data analysis
  • Data visualization
  • Focus groups
  • Case study and best practices research
  • Digital storytelling
  • Public history
  • Policy analysis

Spring 2022 Projects

Fall 2021 Projects

Spring 2021 Projects

Spring 2020 Projects

Fall 2019 Projects

Spring 2019 Projects

Fall 2018 Projects

Spring 2018 Projects

Spring 2022 Projects

Anti-Racist Education 

Hartford Federation of Teachers seeks to identify ways to expand possibilities for anti-racist education and training in Hartford Public Schools. HFT would like to survey current teachers about their experience with anti-racist trainings, how they incorporate anti-racist training into their classrooms, and what resources teachers would like the district to implement.

Learn more at: https://action-lab.org/anti-racisteducation/

Youth Development 

What long term impact has ConnectiKids’ Youth Development Program had on participants over the years? ConnectiKids has been in service for over 42 years and has served over 10,000 students through its Tutoring and Mentoring Program, Arts and Enrichment Program, and Summer Program. The organization has a host of “alumni” who stay in touch with us by volunteering, working as summer staff, and serving on the board of directors. Some older students also reach out to staff for advice on academic and career issues. However of the thousands of students ConnectiKids has served over the years, we only have a very small amount of qualitative data on alumni after they leave our program, and no quantitative data. We are especially interested in the long term impact our programs have had on former participants’ academics, careers, and life choices. We are curious to know if length of time with the agency makes a difference as well as level of participation (participating in all of our programs vs. just one or two). ConnectiKids, our partners, and our fellow community organizations can benefit from knowing the long term impacts that high quality positive youth development programs can have on participating students.

Learn more at: https://action-lab.org/youth-development/

Covid-19 & Community Health Perspectives 

Building on our current COVID-19 vaccination campaign, we would like to explore infection mitigation behaviors and attitudes, including vaccine uptake, among youth BIMPOC residents of Hartford. While the state of Connecticut is a national leader in vaccination rates at nearly 80% of the eligible population receiving at least one dose, in the city of Hartford, fewer than 55% or residents have initiated vaccination, with more disparities found in terms of both race/ethnicity as well as age cohort. With young people returning to schools, along with the potential “pester power” they may have in their households, youth are an important stakeholder group to engage for both their insights and buy-in to developing effective interventions and campaigns. This is especially timely given that younger children will soon be eligible for vaccination.

Learn more at: https://action-lab.org/vaccine-uptake/

Housing & Environmental Justice 

In our fight for fair and equitable housing, we ask many questions and look at many different areas that impact housing. One of our more recent ventures has brought us to the world of environmental justice and how it correlates to fair housing issues. Have you noticed that in predominantly low-income communities that there is an inordinate amount of liquor stores? Or maybe you have noticed that in communities of color, there are not as many healthy grocery store options than in other areas of town. These instances are not random, and show the intertwined relationship between where people live and the conditions that they are living in. Environmental justice is defined as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (via epa.gov) Given this definition, it is imperative that we highlight that we highlight the synchronicities between environmental justice and fair housing in our own neighborhoods, and work to advocate for change. What environmental justice issues are we facing in Hartford, and what population of people are these issues affecting?

Learn more at: https://arcg.is/1qjyv90

Fall 2021 Projects

Community Ownership

LISC Connecticut is looking to expand upon the Action Lab’s 2019 Absentee Landlord Project completed in partnership with SINA in 2017, which studied homeownership/absentee landlords in the South End. LISC is interested in conducting a similar study of North End neighborhoods but focused more granularly on non-owner occupied homes to better understand who those owners are and where they live. One of the areas the former study only touched on, and what has been found in subsequent analysis, is that a large portion of owners of non-owner-occupied homes live elsewhere in Hartford. Analysis by LISC of Oakland Terrace in the Upper Albany neighborhood found that more than half of structures (all of the homes on this street are two- or three-family homes) were owner-occupied, and nearly a quarter more were owned by someone whose address was elsewhere in the North End. This would indicate a high level of “community ownership,” which would require programmatic solutions to support improved housing conditions for renters and wealth-building for both owner-occupants and investor-owners who are likely to be Black or Brown. Learn more at: https://action-lab.org/community-ownership/

Day and time: Tuesday afternoons, 1:30-4:10 pm

Community Partner: Matthew Straub / LISC Connecticut (Local Initiatives Support Corporation)

Frog Hollow Storytelling

What is the history of the neighborhood as told by people with first-hand knowledge? The neighborhood’s rich history has been documented through more traditional approaches, but not as extensively through the voices of residents. Through their efforts, SINA has met neighbors who have lived in the area for over 40 years. Thus, SINA thinks this is an untapped resource. The project will focus on the 5028 census tract in the Frog Hollow Neighborhood. Learn more here: http://action-lab.org/frog-hollow-oral-history/

Day and time: Wednesday afternoons, 1:15-4:10 pm

Community Partner: Logan Singerman / Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance

Neighborhood Investment

The Southwest and Behind the Rocks NRZ’s activities and projects frequently recommend community revitalization projects, where such investments lead to improved community conditions and a return on investment to the community and the city. A number of community stakeholders suggest additional investments such as a comprehensive, full-service community center, infrastructure improvements to New Britain Avenue and other community development projects are a good return on investment tool for wealth creation, community revitalization, and return on investment. Often state, city public leaders look to substantiating the return on investment on such new, expanded community revitalization projects, therefore the community leadership, working with city and state leadership, would like to learn more about to what extent has community revitalization projects in the past several decades (i.e.: Charter Oak/Rice Heights Housing Modernization, Public School modernization, and other community revitalization) lead to increased neighborhood median income, property values, increased education outcomes, etc.—and leading to increased property and income taxes over the past several decades—and an increased return on investment (i.e.: 40 years in the Behind the Rocks/Southwest neighborhoods); validating the need for ongoing community development projects and ROI. (since 1980 through 2020). Learn more at:  http://action-lab.org/neighborhood-investment/

Day and time: Wednesday evenings, 6:30-9:00 pm

Community Partner: James Boucher / Southwest and Behind the Rocks NRZ

Energy Efficiency

Sierra Club would like to understand the energy burden in Hartford. Energy burden is the percentage of income individuals spend on their energy bills. High energy costs are a leading contributor to household debt, which impacts the high rates of poverty in Hartford. Understanding energy burden can help communities understand a just transition to clean energy. Through mapping and community outreach, the project will identify data and information on energy burden and ways energy burden is addressed. This can include the following: the levels of energy burden in the city, what energy efficiency programs exist for city residents, what energy efficiency and clean energy projects have been undertaken in the city recently, and what do residents and other stakeholders find to be the barriers to energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Learn more here: https://action-lab.org/energyburdenhtfd/

Day and time: Thursday afternoons, 1:30-4:10 pm

Community Partner: Alycia Jenkins, Samantha Dynowski / Sierra Club CT; Ready for 100 Hartford

Spring 2021 Projects

School Nutrition

Grow Hartford Youth Program organizes youth and the community around social injustices such as food injustice, racism, and adultism. In order to better understand the power players in charge of providing food to Hartford Public Schools, our group would like to learn which companies and/or corporations are contracted by Hartford Public Schools to supply school food. Grow Hartford would also like to learn how much these contracts cost and what the nutritional content is of the foods they provide. Learn more: action-lab.org/school-nutrition.

Students: Bailey Cunningham (TC ‘21), Emma Hersom (TC ‘24), Concilia Ndlovu (TC ‘23) Rafael Villa (TC ‘21), and Destini Watson (CCC)

Day and time: Tuesday afternoons, 2:00-5:15 pm

Community Partner: Shanelle Morris / Grow Hartford Youth Program

Faculty Fellow: Dave Tatem, Trinity College

Refugee Needs

Many Syrian refugee families resettled here more than a year or two ago, but most families are not fully self-sufficient. They no longer have much official support for resettlement, yet they face barriers with language, employment, education, finances, housing, and many other topics. There are about 20 such families in Hartford & West Hartford, and another 20 in New Britain. Sawa Refugee Resettlement would like to visit these families to find out what their needs and resources are, starting with the Hartford area families. The goal is to find out what the families’ priorities are for the next year or so, in detail, and help them develop a plan to accomplish their goals. Learn more: action-lab.org/refugee-needs.

Students: Zeinab Bakayoko (TC ‘23), Malika Buscaino (TC ‘23), Timothy Johnson (TC IDP), Leslie Macedo (TC ‘23), Dalia Oufi (CCC), and Will Scannell (‘24)

Day and time: Wednesday afternoons, 2:00-5:15 pm

Community Partner: Sarah Kieffer, Anna Shusterman, Carrie Berman, Maha Abdullah, and Janet Stone / SAWA Refugee Resettlement

Faculty Fellow: Linda Cocchiola, Capital Community College

Limitless Fitness

Oak Hill is Connecticut’s largest nonprofit provider of services for people with all types of disabilities. Oak Hill is home to Adaptive Sports & Fitness, an innovative community center designed for children and adults of all abilities. The individualized programming supports the health of individuals with disabilities, chronic illnesses, people who have sustained an injury or are recovering from surgery, and individuals who are just aging, regardless of a disability. Oak Hill provides a wide range of amenities including a gym with unique, specialized fitness equipment; personal training; inclusive playgroups for children with disabilities; wheelchair sports; physical education classes; field trips; Veterans sports and fitness programs; chronic illness and disability support groups; caregiver support groups; community space; and group exercise classes. The highly trained staff is well-versed in supporting individuals who are facing any type of challenge. Oak Hill empowers members to achieve results that drastically improve their health, quality of life, and ability to live more independently. Recently, Oak Hill Adaptive Sports & Fitness moved from Bristol to Oak Hill’s main Hartford location where it is now co-located with the durable medical equipment restoration program and smart home services for people with disabilities. This exciting change provides several significant benefits; the convenient location in Hartford is much easier to reach, allowing for increased impact on the community, and combining the programs makes it possible for us to provide a much fuller scope of services for people with disabilities, all at one location. Adaptive Sports & Fitness was a fixture in Bristol for five years, but we have never offered this type of programming in Hartford. The goal is to learn how we can best meet the needs of this community, and make sure services are provided in the most accessible way possible for children and adults with short or long-term disabilities and individuals who are aging. Learn more: action-lab.org/limitless-fitness.

Students: Vanessa Ferrera (TC ‘21), James Michielli (TC ‘23), Carder Miller (TC ‘24), and Alina Ryan (TC ‘22)

Day and time: Thursday afternoons, 2:00-5:15 pm

Community Partner: Kelly Boscarino, Christy Bosley, and Paul Weiland / Oak Hil Adaptive Sports & Fitness

Faculty Fellow: Melanie Eaton, Capital Community College

Spring 2020 Projects

Black Heritage

This team worked with their community partner, the Hartford History Center, to raise awareness about the Talcott Street Congregational Church, the first black Congregational church in Hartford and the third in the nation. Students conducted archival research at Hartford History Center, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and the Old State House. The team met with staff at the Old State House and with members from Faith Congregational Church, the contemporary location of the Talcott Street Church. Students studied works by Ann Plato, a Hartford native and 19th-century educator and author, and accounts from the life of Reverend James Pennington, among other primary source documents. The project team created an online exhibit on their website to highlight the church’s timeline and important leaders. They also drafted a proposal for the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Community College to memorialize the historical site. The proposal included both short-term ideas, such as workshops for faculty members to learn more about the church’s significance, and longer-term initiatives, such as a dedicated research course focusing on the church. The team also provided ideas for the city to help highlight the church, such as creating a permanent exhibit and memorializing the site on the Freedom Trail. Learn more: action-lab.org/black-heritage

Students: Aliyah Freeman-Johnson (CCC), Julian Hogan (CCC), Armani Parnther (CCC), and Mercy Unoh (TC ’23)

Taught by: Jeff Partridge, Capital Community College Action Lab Faculty Director

Community Partner: Jasmine Agosto and Brenda Miller, Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library

Faculty Fellow: Stephen Thorton, Shoeleather History Project

Neighborhood Communications

This project team worked with the City of Hartford’s Office of Community Engagement to improve communication between the city government and Hartford city residents. The team investigated how residents currently received information about city services, what city services people were most interested in hearing about, and how residents experienced the process of trying to contact the city. Students conducted in-person qualitative interviews with 25 residents and distributed an online survey through social media. From the in-person interviews, the team found that the majority of participants noted word-of-mouth as their primary channel of information about city services. While 67% of residents interviewed were “satisfied” with the information they received from the city, less than half of the participants contacted the city directly. Preferred methods of communication about city services included an email letter, texting service, and a newsletter. From the online survey, the team found both residents and non-residents used phone calls over any other form of communication to contact the city. However, more Hartford resident’s utilized the city’s 3-1-1 app. Students suggested implementing a city-wide texting service, an email newsletter, and a print newsletter posted in public places central to the community. Learn more: action-lab.org/neighborhood-communications

Students: Victoria Asfalg (TC ’23), Lillian Foote (TC ’21), and Sulemaan Khalid (TC ’23)

Community Partner: Janice Castle, City of Hartford, Office of Community Engagement

Faculty Fellow: Aidali Aponte-Aviles, Trinity College

Addiction Treatment

This group conducted research to help determine if the I CAN Recover model was more effective at treating addiction than other models. The team’s community partner, InterCommunity Health Care, planned to conduct an experiment to demonstrate the benefits of this model with the intention of making it available for other facilities to implement. Students completed a literature review to determine the most effective research designs by identifying similar treatment effectiveness studies. They proposed three research plans: a random assignment option, a pre-post option, and a quasi-experiment option. They proposed measuring treatment effectiveness using retention rates, number of sober days per month, admissions to the emergency department, and deaths due to opioid overdose. All design proposals would use a point-based system to incentivize participation. Learn more: action-lab.org/addiction-treatment

Students: Lauren Mac Master (TC ’20), Nina Montross (TC ’20), Arianna O’Brien (TC ’20), Jasmine Parras (TC ’23), and Adrian Rivera (TC ’20)

Community Partner: Tyler Booth, InterCommunity Health Care

Faculty Fellow: Laura Holt, Trinity College

HIV Community-Health

This project team researched Community Health Workers (CHWs) and their impact on health outcomes for their patients living with HIV. Students also focused on new certification requirements for CHWs and how this affects their work. Using a snowball sampling method, students conducted qualitative interviews with current CHWs and data analysts involved in research surrounding the role of CHWs in HIV-related care. The project found that CHWs help improve health outcomes by serving as a liaison between community members and health care providers, advocating for their clients, and working to combat internal and external stigma. They also work to help clients overcome barriers to care including housing, transportation, language services, and education. The project team also found the recent certification option for CHWs did not meet initial expectations and raised important questions regarding the scope of practice, essential skills, and funding. The team recommended appropriately regulating and professionalizing the role by defining the scope of practice, making work done by CHWs billable, creating a standardized training program, and having employers fund certification for current CHWs. Learn more: action-lab.org/hiv-community-health

Students: Shian Earlington (CCC), Frances Gibson (CCC), Giovanni Jones (TC ’21), Max Norteman (TC ’23), and Lucy Pereira (TC ’20)

Community Partner: Cecil Tengatenga, Yale School Public Health: ARCH Lab

Faculty Fellow: Adolfo Sanchez-Blanco, Capital Community College

Arts Education

In this project, students worked with Hartford Perform to research the impact of Hartford Performs’ programming in Hartford Public Schools and the effectiveness of arts-based education. This team conducted a focus group of teaching artists and interviewed parents to gain a comprehensive understanding of both the program’s impact on Hartford students and insight on program logistics. Students also observed classrooms in different public schools across Hartford to investigate the effects of teaching artists’ engagement with students. The project team found that arts integration in the classroom improves creativity, self-expression, and student engagement. They recommended expanding the program into middle and high schools, increasing funding for Hartford Performs, and more communication between Hartford Performs, teaching artists, and parents. Learn more: action-lab.org/arts-education

Students: Sara Barrett (TC ’21), Ava Goncalves (TC ’20), Levi Kardulis (CCC), Brenda Ordonez (TC ’22), and Lashawn Robinson (CCC)

Community Partner: Jeanika Browne-Springer, Hartford Performs

Faculty Fellow: Rebecca Pappas, Trinity College

Fall 2019 Projects

Absentee Landlord

This project investigated how many two- to three- family properties in the South End of Hartford are owned by absentee landlords and if absentee-owned properties are cared for differently than owner-occupied properties. Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA), the project’s community partner, was particularly interested in the neighborhoods of Barry Square, Behind the Rocks, and Frog Hollow, and plans to use the research to inform their community development plans. To identify owner-occupied and absentee-owned properties, the group used public data from the Hartford Tax Assessor’s Office Property Information Database. The team also conducted in-person property observations on thirty randomly selected properties to compare the conditions of owner-occupied with absentee-owned properties and compared these observations with the Hartford Blight Office’s property survey. The project concluded based on property assessment data that just under half of the small multi-family units in SINA’s area of interest were owned by absentee landlords; in-person observations confirmed that this estimate was at least 80% accurate. Contrary to expectations, absentee landlords tended to live nearby. The project also found that absentee-owned properties cost less, were more likely to be three- rather than two-family properties, and were in more of a dilapidated condition than owner-occupied properties. This project may influence property acquisition strategy by encouraging SINA to focus on converting absentee-owned properties to owner-occupied properties. Learn more at: action-lab.org/absentee-landlord

Student Researcher: Lena Wright (CCC)

Community Partner: Melvyn Colon, Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)

Faculty Fellow: Emily Yen, Trinity College

Hurricane Maria: A Community Without Limits

This group conducted retrospective research to explore the successes and failures in providing aid to the families displaced by Hurricane Maria. Alongside their partner, Lilly Sin Barreras, the students investigated which sources of aid were most beneficial to the families who were displaced, the challenges that service providers faced when coordinating aid, and the challenges that families faced in accessing services. The team also tracked the successes achieved by Hurricane Maria survivors in transitioning to life in a new city and the programs that were most successful in helping them relocate. The students completed a total of 13 interviews with representatives from institutions that were closely involved in providing relocation aid to families displaced by the hurricane. The team also conducted 6 interviews with individuals who were displaced. Families who were displaced emphasized the temporary and unstable housing, barriers to employment, and lack of mental health services. The major successes identified by the team include the Capitol Regional Education Council (CREC) Welcome Center, the sense of community cultivated in response to the tragedy, and continuing the education of children who were displaced by Hurricane Maria. Despite these successes, the team found that institutions tended to be slow and reactive in response to the crisis, low-cost or free housing services were largely unavailable in the city, and most organizations failed to coordinate a formal plan to respond to this emergency.
Learn more at: action-lab.org/hurricane-maria

Student Researchers: Christian Gardner (CCC), Maria Martinez (TC ‘22), Olivia Painchaud (TC ‘21)

Community Partner: Lydia Herrera, Lilly Sin Barreras

Faculty Fellow: Sarah Raskin, Trinity College

Youth Homelessness

This team worked with their partner CT Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) to raise awareness about youth homelessness in Hartford and the rights of students who are experiencing homelessness. The students sought to identify existing school personnel in the Hartford Public School system that were aiding youth who are homeless and explore how CCEH could build relationships with these personnel. The group also researched resources available to youth who are homeless and assessed how knowledgeable Capital Community College students were about the rights of this population. This team conducted 5 interviews with school personnel about their responsibilities, interactions they’ve had with youth who are homeless, and helpful resources. In addition to the interviews, the group conducted 40 surveys from Capital Community College students to ascertain young adults’ knowledge about the rights of youth who are homeless and the McKinney-Vento Act. From the interviews with school personnel, the team found that the school personnel wanted more training and staff to aid youth who are homeless at the school level. They also found that the bureaucracy of the educational system presented a major barrier to school personnel to identify and serve youth who are homeless. From the surveys of Capital Community College students, the team found that the majority of respondents were unsure about the rights of students who are homeless. Learn more at: action-lab.org/youth-homelessness

Student Researchers: Karolina Barrientos (TC ‘22), Clare Donohoe (TC ‘22), Clare Blanchard (TC ‘22), Jeremiah Rodriguez (CCC)

Community Partner: Carl Asikainen, CT Coalition to End Homelessness

Faculty Fellows: Stefanie Wong, Trinity College

Youth Sports

In this project, students conducted research with their community partner Active City to identify how many kids are participating in youth sports programs in Hartford, what communities are being left out, and what barriers prevent kids from participating in sports. The team conducted 54 in-person surveys at various locations around Hartford from parents of children between the ages of 5 to 14. To collect as representative of a sample of Hartford parents as possible, students selected survey locations in the North End, the South End, and the West End of the city. From the in-person surveys, the team found that 55.4% of children in Hartford do not participate in a sports program, with a lack of transportation posing as the most common barrier to participation. However, a majority of the parents whose children did not play sports still wanted their children to participate. The group also published an online survey that was shared across various local social media outlets and received 59 responses. Since the online survey was posted on Active City’s website, many of the respondents were already involved in sports. Based on the survey responses, the team suggested that organizations collaborate more with schools to offer and promote organized sports programming. Opportunities for further research include disseminating the online survey to a more representative sample of Hartford residents to increase the sample size and create a more accurate estimate of the percentage of Hartford youth who participate in youth sports. Learn more at: action-lab.org/youth-sports

Student Researchers: Gayler Grace (CCC), Lily Everett (TC ‘21), Erick Peña (TC ‘20), Katie Marlow-Benedick (TC ‘20)

Community Partner: Margaret Girard, Active City

Faculty Fellow: John Michael Mason, Trinity College

Spring 2019 Projects

Culinary Careers

This project investigated how to improve training programs for entry-level food service workers to move into middle-income managerial jobs. Billings Forge, the team’s community partner, provided a list of twenty-two programs. Students then collected data from culinary training program officials and culinary employees who work in Hartford. The group found that all of the culinary careers programs studied focused on training disadvantaged and diverse populations. They also concluded that all programs operate with a partner, and public partners supported through funding while private partners provided program participants, food for cooking and consumption, and in-kind service donations. From the interviews with culinary employees, students found that over fifty percent expressed their desire to advance in their workplace and also to remain in their current job. Requirements for promotion included job training, better connections, and more experience. Three of the twelve interviewees attended culinary school, and half of the workers did not participate in any culinary classes before starting their job. After reviewing their findings, the project team envisioned a career pathway for culinary arts that is equivocal to the two dominant careers in Hartford today: healthcare and manufacturing. They also suggested that their partner should work with Manchester Community College to create a sufficient curriculum, foster private partnerships including internships at local restaurants, and provide stipends and case management for participants. Learn more at: action-lab.org/culinary-careers

Student Researchers: Julianna Ankomah (Capital), Stephanie Brooks (Trinity), Sonjah Dessalines (Trinity), Nelson Neo (Trinity), and Yinestra West (Capital)

Community Partner: Cary Wheaton, Billings Forge Community Works

Faculty Fellow: India Weaver, Capital Community College

Student Success

This group researched how to facilitate the integration of West Indian children and families into Hartford-area schools. Students first reviewed policy documents and forms from Hartford Public Schools to identify existing programs. The group then conducted interviews with five school administrators and board of education officials who were responsible for enrolling newly arriving students. They also collected online and in-person surveys from people who emigrated from the West Indies and enrolled in United States’ schools. The survey focused on participants’ experience of integrating their student into the U.S. education system and solicited recommendations for services and programs that would have been helpful for their student. Team members also visited the Welcome Center for Hartford Public Schools to learn more about the enrollment process. The team found that current services included English Language Learning (ELL) for those who identified a primary language other than English on the Home Language Survey. However, since Patois is regarded by some as a dialect rather than a secondary language, not all students received the language assistance they needed. The group also found that other barriers were the different structures and cultures of the West Indian and U.S. school systems. To help children and families acclimate, the group recommended a buddy program for newly-arrived students, a mentor program for parents/guardians, and culturally-appropriate placement testing. To address the language nuances, the team proposed Standard English Language services and a direct question to capture an accurate number of speakers of Patois on the Home Language Survey. Students also suggested recruiting West Indian teachers, training teachers in cultural competency, and partnerships between community organizations and Hartford Parent University to provide services to a broader range of families.  Learn more at: action-lab.org/student-success

Student Researchers: Shantal Birungi (Capital), Allen Bowin (Capital), Dawn King (Capital), Sydney Pagliocco (Trinity), and Elizabeth Rousseau (Trinity)

Community Partners: West Indian Foundation (founded 1978) (Desmond Collins, President; Violette Haldane, VP of Programming; and Dr. Fiona Vernal, board member)

Faculty Fellow: Cleo Rolle, Capital Community College

Latinx Theater

In this project, students interviewed artists and organizations and surveyed Hartford’s Latinx community to identify opportunities to promote and expand partnerships between their community partner, Hartford Stage, and the Latinx arts community. The qualitative interviews focused on existing acts and organizations in the area that involve the Latinx community and could potentially partner with Hartford Stage. In addition, the group explored the most effective approaches for encouraging partnerships and what these partnerships could entail. The team surveyed Hartford’s Latinx community to gain a better understanding of where they spend their free time and what art and/or cultural activities were most relevant to the community. From the interviews with artists and organizations, students identified four underlying themes: a need for profound representation, embracing Spanish as a cultural component, stances on partnerships, and unwritten expectations. As for surveying the broader Latinx community, the group collected a total of eighty-five surveys and found that sixty percent of participants had children, which indicated that Hartford Stage should increase their investment in children’s programs. The most popular hangout locations were restaurants, and other important locations included boutiques, corner stores, beauty salons, and barbershops. After reviewing the findings, recommendations included hiring bilingual staff (especially Hartford residents), producing bilingual programs, involving the community in productions, using the gallery space to promote local artists, and partnering with public schools. Learn more at: action-lab.org/latinx-theater (English) or action-lab.org/teatro-latinx (Español).

Student Researchers: Joyce Figueroa-Pomales (Capital), Jennifer Medina (Capital), and Jackie Monzon (Trinity)

Community Partner: Rachel Alderman and Theresa MacNaughton, Hartford Stage

Faculty Fellow: Diana Aldrete, Trinity College

Cove Connection

In this project, students conducted research to understand what local residents in the North End of Hartford and the Wilson section of Windsor wanted to see in the new park. Students created and implemented a survey of sixty-seven residents in highly-populated, public areas in surrounding neighborhoods. The group also attended two North East Revitalization NRZ meetings to inform residents about the park and gather feedback. Students found a few overarching themes throughout the responses. People wanted more park services for children and teens, used the park mainly to connect with nature, didn’t face many obstacles using their current parks, and viewed bathrooms as the highest priority. After digging deeper into the analysis, Hartford and Windsor residents had differing needs. Respondents from Hartford visited the park with their kids, while Windsor respondents tended to visit more with friends. Playgrounds were more popular among Hartford residents, while those surveyed in Wilson wanted picnic tables and grills. Hartford residents also faced more obstacles like poor park maintenance and safety concerns compared to their Wilson neighbors. Learn more at: action-lab.org/cove-connection

Student Researchers: Dawn-Marie Amaro (Capital), Lexi Butler (Trinity), Kirstin Fierro (Trinity), Brielle Jones (Trinity), Sarah Lawrence (Trinity), and Kevin Torres (Trinity)

Community Partner: Martha Conneely, Riverfront Recapture

Faculty Fellow: Stefanie Chambers, Trinity College

Fall 2018 Projects

Food Stories in Hartford

This project explored how oral histories can be used to make detailed, wordy food policy relevant to and digestible for everyone to encourage widespread advocacy. Each team member researched an area of food policy: food regulations, urban farming, food industry, and food access. Students then conducted and videotaped interviews with six people who were either Hartford residents or have spent the majority of their life in Hartford. Topics ranged from challenges of urban farming to building a career in fast food. Each story was associated with a food policy, such as soil testing requirements and food safety regulations, which directly impacted the narrative. Learn more at https://action-lab.org/food-stories.

Community Partner: Meg Hourigan, Connecticut Food System Alliance

Student Researchers: Christopher Carter (Trinity), Trea Mannello (Trinity), Carlo Puccio (Capital), Antoine Smith (Capital)

Faculty Fellow: Sarah Moon (University of Connecticut)

Opportunity Youth

In this project, students collected, analyzed, and identified gaps in data about Opportunity Youth in Hartford in order to learn how to better serve this population. The team collected demographic data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to identify who are Opportunity Youth, as well as program data from five organizations in Hartford to see who was receiving services and of what kind. They also gathered qualitative data from a focus group of eight Opportunity Youth program participants in Hartford. After compiling their research, students learned Tableau to produce data visualizations of their analyses. They found that while most Opportunity Youth in Hartford lived in the South End, most Opportunity Youth who received services lived in the North End. They also found that many Opportunity Youth face challenges including criminal justice involvement and Department of Children and Families (DCF) intervention. Learn more at http://action-lab.org/opportunity-youth.

Community Partner: Julie Geyer, Capital Workforce Partners

Student Researchers: Mohammed Albehadli (Trinity), Ardyn Allessie (Trinity), Micalyia Douglas (Capital), Tiana Starks (Trinity), Daouda Williams (Capital)

Faculty Fellow: Alyson Spurgas (Trinity)

Home Ownership

This group investigated how homeownership rates vary in the city and the region, what factors affect homeownership rates, and potential solutions to increase homeownership. Students used data from the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey and also conducted an interview survey of thirty residents from two Hartford neighborhoods. The team found that many of Hartford’s neighborhoods were unaffordable for the typical neighborhood resident and that housing stock was limited. They also found that, while the desire to own a home was high, credit was a major barrier to home ownership. Learn more at http://action-lab.org/home-ownership.

Community Partner: Jeff Devereux, Breakfast Lunch & Dinner

Student Researchers: Leah Cormier (Trinity), Alex Dahlem (Trinity), Gisselle Ortiz (Capital), Caroline Sullivan (Trinity)

Faculty Fellow: Jack Dougherty (Trinity)

Hartford S.H.E.L.F. – Sustainable, Healthy, Economical and Local Foods

In this project, students investigated the informational barriers that Hartford residents face when trying to access sustainable, healthy, economical, and locally-grown foods. Students conducted and implemented interviews with farmers, residents, and experts in the Hartford food system about the struggles these groups encounter providing and/or accessing local foods. Cost followed by nutritional value were the most highly-considered factors for Hartford residents when making their food choices, and more than half of the residents surveyed said they were likely to consider both locally-grown and environmental impact when shopping. Students found that while residents mainly used the internet to get information about healthy foods and recipes, they did not use it as commonly for information about where to shop. They concluded that there is not a consistent and/or reliable source for residents to determine what is being sold at farmers markets by day and suggested an internet intervention by publicizing a coordinated Twitter feed. Learn more at http://action-lab.org/hartford-shelf.

Community Partner: Shubhada Kambli, Office of Sustainability, City of Hartford

Student Researchers: Gillian Birk (Trinity), Maddie Farrar (Trinity), Amanda Lafferty (Trinity), Megan Logan (Trinity), Eve Molodetz (Capital), Doris Zhang (Trinity)

Faculty Fellow: Christoph Geiss (Trinity)

Spring 2018 Projects

Eviction

In this project, students investigated how Hartford residents came to face eviction, their experiences with the eviction process, and the immediate and long-term ramifications of their evictions on their families. Students designed and implemented a courthouse survey project based on Matthew Desmond’s work in Milwaukee. They surveyed 22 people facing eviction in the city. Of those 22 people, 21 were people of color, 19 were women, and 14 had children living with them, which suggested that people of color and women were over-represented in eviction court based on their share of the Hartford MSA renter population. In their surveys, they found that poor housing conditions were common and sometimes egregious. They also found that stipulation agreements (i.e. eviction plea bargains) were the most common result of the court process, resulting in large fines and a tarnished eviction record for renters. Learn more at http://action-lab.org/eviction.

Community Partners: Salmun Kazerounian and Erin Kemple, CT Fair Housing Center

Student Researchers: Lindsay Pressman (Trinity) and Anjenique White (Capital)

Faculty Fellow: Serena Laws (Trinity)

North Hartford Promise Zone Mapping

Students learned GIS mapping software and spatial analysis techniques alongside their community partner in order to analyze the results of Community Solutions’ Neighborhood Conditions Survey and investigate the connection between housing conditions and health outcomes in NE Hartford. They produced a series of interactive story maps identifying “hot spots” of blight conditions and connecting these with maps of health disparities affecting the North End of the city. Learn more at https://action-lab.org/mapping-blight/.

Community Partners: Kathy Del Beccaro and Nadia Lugo, Community Solutions International, Inc.

Student Researchers: Garret Forst (Trinity), Cecilia Harris (Capital), Lindon James (Capital)

Faculty Fellow: David Tatem (Trinity)

Creative Placemaking

This project took a close look at the Nook Farm area of Asylum Hill (which includes the Mark Twain House, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and Hartbeat Ensemble’s Carriage House Theater), connecting the historical significance of this site for creative and intellectual pursuits with current studies in “creative placemaking”–development projects that leverage the power of the arts, culture, and creativity to serve a community’s interest while avoiding gentrification. After investigating how other places around the country had used creative projects to develop neighborhoods, students surveyed Asylum Hill residents on their views of the neighborhood, their knowledge about neighborhood institutions, and the types of creative placemaking projects that might be interesting to them. They found that residents expressed the most interest in parades and the least interest in gardening. Learn more at https://action-lab.org/creative-placemaking/.

Community Partner: Steven Ginsburg, HartBeat Ensemble

Student Researchers: Josephine Bensa (Capital), Giana Moreno (Trinity), Aulona Zeka (Capital), Jane Bisson (Trinity)

Faculty Fellow: Tim Cresswell (Trinity)

PILOT Messaging

In this project, students investigated how best to message the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILOT) to suburban Hartford residents. Students first conducted interviews and focus groups to learn how suburban residents related to the city and how they understood (or misunderstood) the PILOT program. Then, they created prototypes of messaging products to promote fully funding PILOT. They tested these products in a survey that they promoted through Facebook. They found that most people were unfamiliar with the PILOT program, but that people who knew about the program were more likely to support funding it. Learn more at https://action-lab.org/pilot-messaging/.

Community Partners: Wildaliz Bermudez and Jason Ortiz, Hartford Court of Common Council, and Erin Boggs, Open Communities Alliance

Student Researchers: Michael Barlowski (Capital), Luke Blough (Capital), Haley Dougherty (Trinity), Massimo Eichner (Trinity)

Faculty Fellow: Abigail Fisher Williamson (Trinity)

Parent Engagement

Students looked into best practices for engaging immigrant and refugee parents on topics related to their children’s education. Working with the Hartford Public Library’s Immigrant Youth Project, students researched current immigration and refugee settlement patterns throughout Hartford. They identified ways that other places had engaged immigrant parents in their kids’ education and constructed a qualitative interview and survey instrument to investigate how Hartford’s immigrant parents and adolescent children related to one another through education. They found that, overall, parents were interested and committed to working with their kids’ schools, believing that education was a key to a better life. Despite these beliefs and desires, common barriers such as language differences and work hours sometimes got in the way. When asked about methods to increase engagement, parents were very interested in working on collaborative homework assignments with their kids, like engagement strategies that involved teaching a child to cook a recipe from the home country or interviewing a parent about their early life. They were also in favor of more field trips that they could participate in with their kids. Learn more at https://action-lab.org/parent-engagement/.

Community Partner: Nancy Caddigan, Hartford Public Library

Student Researchers: Alison Odermann (Trinity), Tyesha Rodriguez (Capital), Clinton Triumph (Capital)

Faculty Fellow: Daniela Ragusa (Capital)

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