Tiana Starks, a third-year student at Trinity College, is committed to addressing issues of equity and justice for young people, particularly in educational spaces. And as a Hartford native, she is passionate about connecting the city where she grew up with the college she now attends. Over the last three years, she has worked closely with community partners on summer learning loss and racial equity; with faculty on projects related to the school to prison pipeline and human rights through music and performance; and in the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps to provide more teacher awareness of trauma and mental health issues within the public school system. Beyond these projects, she is a leader in the Trinity community as the Community Service Chair for the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization; a participant and mentor for the Community Action Gateway program; and Lead Front Desk Ambassador at the Center for Student Success and Career Development. Across all of these projects and activities, she prioritizes the needs of Hartford youth, working to enhance educational justice and equity across the city.
I first became involved in addressing issues of educational equity in high school when I noticed the disparities among students within my urban high school and nearby suburban schools. In Hartford, students didn’t have the academic or personal resources that suburban students had, making it harder for Hartford students to succeed, especially considering the high rates of mental health issues and trauma. In college, I have committed myself to learning to address these issues by studying educational and prison systems through coursework and community-engaged research projects. As a first generation student at Trinity from Hartford, I have both specific knowledge of issues that need to be addressed in the city and a strong desire to connect every aspect of my education with community work, which pushed me to be involved in academic programs like the Liberal Arts Action Lab and Community Action minor as well as taking on leadership positions like the Community Service Chair of the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization. By combining all aspects of my college career with community engagement, I’m able to begin addressing the issues that I saw as a student so that others have more opportunities for an equitable and just education.