Launching New Lives

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Susie P. Gonzalez
Dec. 12, 2012

Launching New Lives

Trinity University faculty, staff, and students help mentor women seeking a fresh start

Trinity University, a private college in San Antonio, Texas, helps residents of the Battered Women and Children's Shelter make a fresh start
Business administration professor Dante Suarez discusses financial issues as part of the Life Launch class.

- Ready to make a fresh start, residents of the Battered Women and Children's Shelter of San Antonio have found mentors in Trinity University professors, staff members, and students who are offering a program called Life Launch.

The idea is to help the women become financially independent by finding work, said Eugenio "Dante" Suarez, associate professor of business administration at Trinity and former shelter board member.

Life Launch is customized for the needs of each participant, some who may need to finish high school by obtaining a General Equivalency Diploma and others who need help creating a resumé. Still others benefit from tips for interviews as well as advice on how to handle a bank account and stretch a food budget. The goal is to offer 1:1 mentoring.

The intensive program is packed into four sessions taught by faculty from a variety of disciplines; staff members from Human Resources, Career Services, and Financial Aid, among others; and students who volunteer to help or translate for Spanish-speakers but receive no course credit. 

Trinity University, a private college in San Antonio, Texas, helps residents of the Battered Women and Children's Shelter make a fresh start
Penelope Harley mentors a Life Launch student. 

Penelope Harley, wife of Trinity University President Dennis A. Ahlburg, credited Suarez for developing the project's vision and said she readily endorsed it as a way to make Trinity available to the rest of the city. "Dennis and I want to be sure Trinity reaches out to the city we care about," she said. "We try to take the knowledge we all have and share it with women who are deeply appreciative."

Some of the women and their children have attended concerts on campus to get a sense of a world that is welcoming and rich with possibility. "They need to see a world that is not threatening," Suarez said, adding that the connections they make at Trinity can extend beyond the four sessions of the program.

For example, after the program ends, they can continue to call upon a Trinity employee to brush up on computer skills or ask for a letter of recommendation to land a desired position, Suarez said. "We want them to be focused on the goal, which is for them to get a job. Their needs are our priority."

Laura Fraser, a candidate for graduation in May with a double major in business administration and sociology, was instrumental in planning the Life Launch program -- even coming up with its name. She developed curricular elements and coordinated student tutors for the classes.

Although the first cohort has completed the four sessions, Suarez and Harley said the University plans to continue the program in future semesters.

Trinity University is a nationally recognized liberal arts and sciences institution noted for its exceptional faculty and commitment to the comprehensive preparation of its talented student body. It is a learning community that has charted its course with a steadfast commitment to excellence since it was founded in 1869.