Approximately 110 Elis gathered at Dwight Hall on Saturday morning to take part in the third annual Freshman Day of Service.
The event aims to foster a long-term commitment to community service and awareness among those who participate. It is a collaborative effort between the Yale College Council, the Freshman College Council, Dwight Hall, the Yale College Dean’s Office and Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs.
The organization of the event changed somewhat this year, as the Day of Service lost its affiliation with the United Way in New Haven and its “Days of Caring” week, which also takes place in mid-September. United Way used to provide project sites throughout New Haven where Day of Service participants would work.
Instead, every Dwight Hall member group had the opportunity to organize a project for this year’s event. With the change in format, there were only nine project sites this year, compared to 15 last year.
Organizer Jessica Bialecki ’08 said she hoped increased involvement from Dwight Hall would make it easier for freshmen to find ways to stay active in the community throughout their time at Yale.
“We want this to be more than a one-day event,” she said.
Jason Pampena ’08 who served as a Town Green Special Services District project leader at the Freshman Day of Service, led a team of 16 freshmen — along with fellow project leader Adedana Ashebir ’09 — in picking up trash on State Street between George and Crown streets.
He said the event was unique in that it introduced students to the grassroots side of community service — doing day-to-day activities that might not be the most glamorous.
“I think Yale students are generally very service-minded,” Pampena said, “But sometimes it does a lot more to do normal things. Some people are looking to make a drastic change when they could just be a regular part of the community.”
Ashebir said an easy way to make a difference in the community is to patronize smaller businesses that lie outside the so-called Yale bubble. For example, students could make more of an effort to eat at restaurants that aren’t on York or Chapel streets, she said.
The event was as an eye-opener for many of the freshmen participating, some of whom saw it as their first chance to explore the city beyond the confines of campus. Danny Silk ’11, who also participated in the CityScape program at the beginning of the year, found it particularly engaging.
“I did it to get out of the Yale bubble,” he said. “The whole city is right in front of you.”
Some participants saw the day as an opportunity to counter the negative perception that New Haven might have in the eyes of freshmen.
“A lot of people have this tendency to say, ‘Yuck, New Haven’,” Emma Sokoloff-Rubin ’11 said. “But I’m excited to see the things that are going on and to help out.”
But others were more hesitant to commit to longer-term community service activities. While Jeremy Lent ’11 said there was “definitely some possibility” that he would get involved with service projects in the future, he was still shopping extracurricular activities.
Tasha Vitek ’11 agreed.
“It’s way too early in the year to tell,” she said.
In a speech before the Day of Service, Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, associate vice president of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, urged participants to think of New Haven as their home and to get involved in the community, where 24 percent of New Haven residents live below the poverty line. While the figure includes Yale students, who comprise 8 percent of the population and rarely have an income, “one person below the poverty line — one person not connected to opportunities — is one person too many,” Morand said.