Co-op Legacy Fellow Sarah Tsuruo

Sarah Tsuruo '21, Biological Sciences
Spring 2020 UConn Co-op Legacy Fellow - Change Grant Recipient

DVCC STEM Program: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching STEM

About the Program:

DVCC STEM: a Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching STEM was created to serve children impacted by domestic violence (DV) at the Domestic Violence Crisis Centers (DVCC) in Stamford and Norwalk, CT. As children impacted by DV manifest these traumatic experiences as lower educational attainment and lower IQs, we aim to address these issues which is further compounded in our children of color from lower-income families. Through the Change Grant, I was able to create and implement a curriculum that teaches these kids about the wonders of science and health literacy while healthily destressing, coping and expressing emotions. DVCC STEM therefore aims to create a support group for these kids and increase overall academic engagement.

DVCC STEM Curriculum:

The DVCC STEM curriculum models a STEM enrichment program through a trauma-informed lens. The STEM curriculum focuses on health literacy, biology, chemistry, physics and ecology fundamentals while incorporating emotion-based art activities. These art activities develop self-esteem and healthy relationship building by allowing for trusting support and communication within the group. A trauma-informed training for volunteers in this program was also developed, which focused on inclusivity, being informed on DV issues in children and cultural competency. Trauma-informed training was also received from Mount Sinai SAVI. Attached below are examples of the trauma-informed STEM and art projects.

Change Grant Recipient Sarah Tsuruo.About Sarah:

Sarah is an Honors Biology major and double minoring in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Molecular & Cell Biology, and planning to graduate in 2021. As an aspiring MD/MPH, Sarah’s mission is to be involved in clinical research and to provide quality care for medically underserved communities in order to minimize healthcare


As I reflect on this program, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to create an impactful initiative to help my community. While this program has been a culmination of a lot of hard work, it truly has been a transformative experience in which I have received amazing mentorship and have learned so much about being trauma and culturally-competent. I’ve learned to collaborate with individuals of all ages, continue despite setbacks and give back to my community. Lastly, I have accomplished in creating a sustainable program as DVCC STEM will continue as a year-long program.

Sample DVCC STEM Program Activities: