Since Fall 2012, Trinity University has hosted women from the Battered Women’s Shelter in a program called Life Launch. This program was started by Dante Suarez, associate professor of finance, and Penelope Harley, adjunct political science professor.
“More recently, in this incarnation of Life Launch, what we have been doing is to help the women get back on their feet. So we developed a curriculum that is very short, but very focused on teaching them what we call Life Launch skills,” Suarez said.
Life Launch is held during October and consists of a welcome session hosted by Harley; a session addressing finding a job hosted by Lisa Jasinski, special projects coordinator in academic affairs; a session on computer literacy hosted by Deborra Cardenas, help desk manager; and a session on financial literacy, hosted by Dante Suarez.
“I think both Dante and I felt that there was both a pool of experience here, but also a pool of warmth and a pool of welcome and I feel really strongly that is something the women appreciate just as much as anything they learn,” Harley said.
Although the first evening is just about making the women feel welcome at Trinity, it plays an important part in the program.
“That introductory evening has its own value because even though we are not technically sort of imparting knowledge, we are imparting””and this is so important to me””the sense of welcome,” Harley said. “A very specific component of that first evening is trying to gauge what would be most useful for the women.”
Aramark has joined in Life Launch as well.
“For the first time, the senior staff of Aramark actually sat in the introductory circle…and that felt really special. They were not just providing food, they were actually a really valued part of the program,” Harley said. “They really believe in what we are doing and they want to support [it]. There is obviously sort of a bottom line that they have to cover…but I know that because they believe in what we are trying to do, they have been as generous with their time and their ability to cut their costs as much as they possibly can.
In addition, Aramark taught the women numerous ways to prepare a boiled chicken for under five dollars.
The second evening is hosted by Jasinski and covers how to research jobs and create a resume.
“I have never had to write a resume…one of the volunteers taught me little tricks,” one of the women from the Battered Women’s Shelter said.
Jasinski says she is able to provide a rich experience to foster opportunities to further one’s career.
“I try to give a lot of authentic opportunities to start working on the things that are really important to whether you want to go on in your educational career or whether you want to go on in a professional career,” Jasinski said.
During the third evening, the women learned skills that ranged from using a Gmail account for business to learning to create a budget in Excel.
“It’s my job…to install some knowledge in them, some power in them, so they can feel more comfortable around the computer,” Cardenas said.
“I think these types of classes will give us the opportunity to grow,” said another woman from the shelter.
The most recent problem has been finding someone to replace Harley in case she leaves with her husband President Ahlburg.
“I’m just hoping we can continue this program even though we might not have Penelope as a lead. I’m just hoping that maybe APO will pick it up or another dynamic person on campus can pick it up and continue this, because I think it would be an absolute shame for this program to dissolve,” Cardenas said. “I think that it’s just one of those topics we’ll have to discuss after we run our program with the ladies.”