Dwight Hall sets 2004′s new agenda

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By the end of their college careers, 80 percent of Yale College seniors will have participated in social programs associated with it. This year alone, 3,000 students have committed their community service hours to it. And over 20,000 New Haven residents will be affected by its efforts.

This institution is the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice — an institution that has been committed to organizing community activities to benefit Yale and the surrounding community for over 150 years. Looking ahead in 2004, the organization hopes to heighten the involvement of faculty and increase the size of its endowment.

“Faculty has been a resource that hasn’t been explored to the fullest, so we’re doing faculty mentoring and internships for the new year.” Dwight Hall Publicity Coordinator Benjamin Staub ’06 said.

For the next three years, $6 million will be raised to extensively update the structure of Dwight Hall and provide a needed addition to the group’s endowment, Staub said. Though Dwight Hall receives only nine percent of its annual $451,617 operating budget from Yale; it makes up over 74 percent of its needs for civic causes through fund drives and endowments.

With organizations and interest adding on to the program, Staub said he anticipates an expansion for a campus presence.

“The ongoing goal for us is an integration of the nonprofit organizations and student groups into the Dwight Hall volunteering structure,” he said. “From five to ten new groups are added every year. New organizations pop up, become extremely active, and that energy usually goes into other campaigns.”

Lauren Thompson ’05, founder and coordinator of the College Council for Care (CARE), which aims to prevent poverty and the spread of AIDS in Third World countries and promote environmental sustainability, said the organization is getting college students involved for the first time in the relief organization.

“This year we’re organizing Advocacy Weekend, inviting kids from the Northeast to encourage them to create CARE groups on their own campuses,” Thompson said. “We have connections to Sen. Dodd on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are trying to get a youth perspective on advocacy and development.”

Magni Hamso ’05, the coordinator of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project (YHHAP), a program that encourages students to donate one dining hall meal per semester to help the homeless, said she would like to increase student involvement in the program.

“[Last term] we had 5,000 kids participate and they reflected on what it means to be hungry and homeless,” Hamso said.

Hamso added that her organization plans to do a lecture series with Dr. Dennis Cohain in order to increase homeless advocacy efforts.

“He’s a large person in the in the relationship aspect with the homeless and the reduction of homeless cases in such a place as New Haven,” she said. “We will discuss length-of-stay policies which determine how long people can stay in shelters.”

An umbrella organization for many nonprofit and social activist groups around campus, Dwight Hall maintains a full-time staff for daily operations, taking care of over 60 member groups through the decisions of their Cabinet and Executive Committee headed by co-coordinators Brian Goldman ’05 and Michelle Rosenthal ’05.

“Dwight Hall’s mission is to foster civic-minded students and foster activism,” Staub said. “Students will walk away having learned of service activism, social justice, and learned more about themselves.”

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