The Trinity Dinner: Building Social Supports

By LIFT on June 8, 2016

Categories: Events, Our Work

On a Friday evening at Trinity Washington University, LIFT-DC hosted a dinner for the five determined mothers participating in our College Access and Readiness Program for Parent-Scholars. Through LIFT-DC’s partnership with an anonymous donor, these mothers received full-ride scholarships to attend Trinity Washington University, tuition free, while receiving assistance from LIFT staff to guide them on their path to graduation.

Each of the five scholars have faced hurdles around securing housing, employment and basic needs while building perseverance, self-confidence, and a strong social support system. When one scholar, Ms. D, first came to the U.S. in 2013, her future was in limbo. With her LIFT advocate, Ms. D enrolled in English classes and found an apartment.

While some challenges are behind them, the scholars face new obstacles on their paths to graduation. LIFT-DC’s staff helps them find childcare, access the internet, pay for transportation and address any other barriers to graduation. But as time progressed, the scholars began to feel increasingly isolated from their peers. As mothers, they found that the unique set of difficulties they faced set them apart from other students.

Understanding that peer support plays a crucial role in driving academic success, LIFT-DC planned dinners to encourage bonding between the scholars. In a small room packed with games and crafts, the scholars, their children, LIFT staff and other allies, enjoyed a meal together.

While finishing up their meals, the group watched a documentary, called She Never Gives Up, about student-parents at Sheridan College in Toronto, Canada. The scholars discussed the common challenges they saw in the documentary with each other. Ms. T described the issues she faced finding reliable childcare and Ms. B explained how pressed for time she felt having to juggle the multiple and complex responsibilities of attending class, studying, working and being a mother.

A common theme that emerged that night was the sense of urgency these mothers felt to set good examples for their children. It was important for them to prove to themselves, too, that they were not defined by their last dead-end job.

The evening became more emotionally charged as a student guest from Trinity Washington University, Ms. G, spoke to the scholars about facing multiple deaths in her family hindering her ability to focus on her studies. With hugs and tears, Ms. G handed each scholar a personalized note with the encouraging reminder that “one of the best things you can do as a student is to believe in yourself.”

“As your Trinity sister,” Ms. G said, “I will forever be on your side as your cheerleader.”

As the night came to an end, each scholar wrote her own letter to another scholar about a problem she faced and persevered through. Now, each scholar has a memento of the love and support they have with each of their “Trinity Sisters.” The scholars and Ms. G have since remained in contact, meeting to help each other with their classwork or just to show support.

While the difficulties these powerful women face will continue, so too will the connections they built that night.