DeStefano promises partnership

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. delivered a Chubb Fellowship Lecture at the Law School on Tuesday about the New Haven Promise program and the city’s future.

DeStefano, New Haven’s longest-serving mayor, spoke about his upbringing as a lifelong city resident, his views about urban governance, and developments surrounding New Haven Promise in his address, titled “City and Civic Infrastructure.” New Haven Promise, the Yale-funded program that will guarantee in-state tuition scholarships for eligible public school students, is a major investment in the city’s human capital, DeStefano said, adding that he will announce a new non-scholarship aspect of the plan tomorrow to be called “New Haven Partnership.”

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., right, discussed New Haven Promise and other future projects Tuesday during a Chubb Fellowship Lecture.
Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., right, discussed New Haven Promise and other future projects Tuesday during a Chubb Fellowship Lecture.

DeStefano spent about half of his remarks, which lasted about an hour, discussing the Promise program’s implications for the city in front of an audience of about 100 in the Law School’s Levinson Auditorium.

But in order for the program to accomplish its mission, it will need to be accompanied by further reforms and initiatives to develop aspirations for college among students, he said.

“It won’t be enough to put a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for kids who will reach it anyway,” he said. “Only with robust civic support can we make all our students the best they can be.”

Although he did not divulge concrete details to the crowd, he said the “New Haven Partnership” would be an umbrella of financial backers and organizations that will help high school teachers prepare students for the college process, develop a pre-K to eighth-grade curriculum that cultivates an aspiration for college, and engage parents to ignite broader interest in college.

College Summit, a non-profit that works with 25,000 under-resourced students nationwide on college readiness, will be involved in helping the city’s high school students prepare for the process of applying and paying for college, DeStefano said.

Stephen Rediker, an independent consultant for local non-profits, told DeStefano in the question-and-answer period following the mayor’s speech that the Promise program has generated excitement at a grassroots level.

“Mothers and fathers have said to me, ‘I am going to take a more active role in my child’s education,’” Rediker said. “Without doing anything but making the announcement about this program, people are really galvanized.”

There are many families, however, who will require additional supports, Rediker added.

The supports built into the Partnership to be announced tomorrow, DeStefano said, distinguish New Haven’s Promise program from similar programs around the country, such those in Pittsburgh and Kalamazoo, Michigan. In addition to the supports of the Partnership, DeStefano highlighted the city’s ongoing efforts to reform its public schools, known as School Change, as an essential supplement to the scholarship program.

“This needs to be a city commitment, not a university commitment,” DeStefano said. “We need to make this a citywide civic enterprise that organizes all New Haven adults around its young people.”

The mayor praised the University for its generosity in funding the city’s Promise program and recalled a different relationship between Yale and the city during his childhood years. During the 1960s, he said, the idea that the university is an integral part of the community did not exist. Whereas in those days Yale was seen as “apart from New Haven rather than a part of New Haven,” DeStefano said the town-gown relationship today has improved permanently.

Bruce Alexander ’65, Yale’s vice president of New Haven and state affairs and campus development, credited DeStefano in his introductory remarks for the mayor’s willingness to collaborate with the university on initiatives seeking to make the city a better place for all residents.

“Since many national figures have in the past been Chubb Fellows, it is great to be able to welcome a homegrown talent,” Alexander added in his introductory remarks.

The Chubb Fellowship, established in 1936 through an endowment provided by Hendon Chubb 1895, brings a variety of speakers involved in public service to campus. Presidents Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush ’48 have all been Chubb Fellows.

DeStefano will return to Yale tomorrow to participate in a panel with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and J. B. Schramm, CEO of College Summit.

The panel, moderated by Dean of Admissions and Master of Timothy Dwight College Jeffrey Brenzel, will take place at 4 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center at 53 Wall Street.

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