Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Spotlight on the Learning Corridor

We are so excited to partner with Doreen Abubakar, the Newhallville community leader behind the Learning Corridor in Newhallville, to bring a summer full of affordable activities to the Learning Corridor. Doreen is working at NHS as an Americorps Vista this summer to build green spaces where residents can pursue healthier lifestyles together. The spaces will serve a broader goal of building community cohesion and changing the negative perceptions of poorer New Haven neighborhoods. The Learning Corridor, a hub for education and health and wellness programming on the Farmington Canal Trail, is one such space.


Five years ago, before Doreen started her work, residents of Newhallville called the space where the Learning Corridor sits the “Mud Hole;” an apt name for a plot of land that could not grow grass and served as a hub in the local drug trade.

The health and wellness disparities she witnessed in in Newhallville drove Doreen to turn the “Mud Hole” into the Learning Corridor. Doreen said she watched outsiders study Newhallville relentlessly as a locus for poverty and trauma. But, she said, those studies did not bring additional support or resources.

From the beginning, Doreen capitalized on the cycling infrastructure running through the corridor and the diverse group of people it brought to the heart of Newhallville. The Learning Corridor sits on the Farmington Canal Trail, a train line turned multi-use path, which runs from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. Five years ago, the space attracted volunteers on bicycles from outside of Newhallville. Riders on the trail would stop and pick up trash without engaging the surrounding community in the cleanup effort. Doreen wanted to bridge the gap between volunteering efforts and residents. She started beautification events and aggressively fundraised to turn the Learning Corridor into an engine for Newhallville revitalization that is responsive to the community.

While the portion of the Farmington Canal running through Newhallville is larger than any other neighborhood’s, many residents did not have a bike to enjoy it. Doreen made it possible for all residents to ride the trail safely. Purchased and donated bikes from Bradley St. Bike Co-op have a permanent home on the Learning Corridor in a shed. Devil’s Gear Bike Shop donated 25 helmets. In July, Doren plans to start holding regular bike safety lessons. Recently, Newhallville youth have been meeting at the Learning Corridor to use the bikes for their weekly Bike Club. Every Saturday, New Haven bicycling advocate Paul Hammer, leads the bike club down the trail and around Newhallville.

Doreen also uses the Learning Corridor to attract the outside involvement and partnerships that will be critical to Newhallville revitalization. On CT Trails day (June 5), a statewide day of activities to build public support for trails, attendees from around Connecticut visited for free bike rentals and guided tours of Newhallville and the Learning Corridor. New Haven Friends of the Farmington Canal Greenway sponsored the event and Doreen supervised activities. The event gave attendees who are unable to bring their bike to the trail an opportunity to finally cycle down it. Doreen also invites New Haven schools to the Learning Corridor to volunteer and to ride the trail.

The Learning Corridor (on the corner of Shelton Ave and Hazel St) hosts much more than cycling events. Pollinator gardens, bee hives, fitness groups, line dancing and free pancake breakfasts are just a few of the things coming to the Learning Corridor this summer! Here’s what’s coming:

GirlTrek: GirlTrek encourages women of color to lead healthier lives by hosting weekly walking clubs around the nation. Starting in July, one chapter will meet every week on Thursdays at the Learning Corridor from 5:30 to 7
Explore.Discover.Create: Every weekday starting July 9th and lasting until August, partners of the Learning Corridor will host Explore.Discover.Create activities at the Learning Corridor from 10 to 12. Expect hands-on educational activities and lots of fun!
Jazz at the Learning Corridor: Starting July 15th, stop by the Learning Corridor for free jazz performances from 5 to 7.
Eating Healthy Lessons: Stop by on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 in July for lessons on healthy eating with a nutritionist.
Learning Corridor Maintenance: It takes a lot of work to maintain the Learning Corridor, which now encompasses an urban oasis, two small fields, and a community gardening. Visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 to participate in beautification efforts and community gardening.
Biking Club: On Saturdays at 9:00 am, younger residents meet at the Learning Corridor to use a bike free of charge. Bicycle advocate Paul Hammer leads the group.

See our flyer below for more information about each event.

Reach out to Doreen Abubakar at doreenabubakar@gmail.com to learn more about how to volunteer at the Learning Corridor and upcoming events.

This piece was written by Yale Public Service Fellow Will Taft

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