City school interns build ties

This year, the efforts of Yale’s public school interns continue to shape the experiences of New Haven’s public school students, particularly at Vincent Mauro Elementary School.

Yale students currently serve as interns at 16 New Haven public schools, organizing extracurricular activities and tapping Yale resources. The public school internships at Vincent Mauro have been particularly effective in integrating Yale’s resources into the life of the school, Office of New Haven and State Affairs public school partnership coordinator Claudia Merson said.

“Vincent Mauro is unique from other public schools in that it provides a rich and diverse learning environment, in which Yale’s resources can be effectively utilized,” she said.

As a result, these New Haven public school students benefit from an increased number and range of academic and extracurricular opportunities.

Courtney McNally ’06, the current intern at Vincent Mauro, said many new programs are in the works. In partnership with Dwight Hall, she is creating a mentorship program for students who have lost a parent or sibling, as well as a unique “adoption” program, in which Yale’s athletic teams will be buying the Christmas supplies for underprivileged families of Vincent Mauro students. In the meantime, she said, many one-time events are also being organized, starting with a planned Yale Children’s Theater performance at the school.

“Yale has a very strong relationship with Vincent Mauro,” she said. “It’s easier to give to Vincent Mauro because it is a very strong community, a very nurturing environment, providing a lot of extracurricular activities.”

McNally, who is entering her second year as an intern, has already started a math competition, a quiz based on literary knowledge called the “Book Bowl,” and a drama mentorship program. She also said she has brought in Yale volunteers as soccer coaches and bilingual Yalies as language tutors for younger students. Among other events, last year she organized literacy days and class trips to the Yale visitor center.

As new programs are established and new events are planned, McNally said that she is constantly strengthening already existing partnerships, such as Bulldog Buddies, a mentorship program involving Yale athletes and co-sponsored by the Yale Athletics Department; Yale’s Tutoring In Elementary Schools; and a partnership between Vincent Mauro and the Yale Chess club.

Merson said McNally has so far been a “fantastic” intern, and Vincent Mauro can expect even more contributions from her this coming year.

“One of the most positive things about the program is that interns serve for a minimum of two years,” she said. “After getting to know the school during the first year, they can contribute even more the second year”.

Vincent Mauro’s ties with Yale have been strong since the Josh Griggs ’03 started interning there in 2000. Griggs, now a Teach for America recruiter, said close communication with the school’s staff helped him successfully match Yale’s available resources to the school’s needs.

Griggs said providing special training for some of the Yale volunteers was a central aspect in his efforts to more perfectly integrate the University’s resources into Vincent Mauro. He said he observed that the volunteers could contribute a lot more if they were more familiar with the school’s unique character and needs.

“We held a training session with [TIES] volunteers to help meet the needs of the school,” he said. “That later expanded to all other volunteers.”

Merson said Griggs’ approach is the best way to ensure success in these internships.

“The measure of success is not the quantity of new programs the intern starts but the quality,” she said. “A good intern must always try to meet the school’s needs.”

After identifying what Vincent Mauro lacked, Griggs said he utilized his knowledge of Yale’s resources to fill the gaps. He said he instituted Family Literacy Days, during which Yale volunteers read with students and their families, a mentorship program with Yalies acting as facilitators for discussion among troubled Vincent Mauro students, and Bulldog Buddies. Griggs also he also brought Yale students in to teach Saturday school and after-school classes.

“The school’s officials were wondering about what classes to offer during after-school programs,” he said. “I found some Yale students who were interested in teaching dance classes.”

Not only did Grigg integrate Yale’s resources into the school, Merson said, but he himself became part of the fabric of Vincent Mauro. Griggs said after finishing his internship, he worked closely with the school’s administration, assisting them in writing grants, budgeting and managing the school.

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