Every week, about 100 “talented and gifted” New Haven eighth-grade students study forensics in the same building where Yale Police detectives use it every day to investigate crime.
The Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center (DYCLC), now almost 5 years old, offers free educational and recreational programs to New Haven residents. Housed at 101 Ashmun St., the site of the headquarters of the Yale Police, the Learning Center provides a wide array of services, including classes for gifted eighth graders and tutoring services for youth. Center coordinator Kito Covington said that providing space for service organizations has allowed the organizations to focus on their missions.
Originally intended to be a chance for the Yale community to interact with its New Haven surroundings, the center has grown into a crucial fixture in the Dixwell neighborhood, Covington added.
“We try to fill the gap between New Haven public schools and Yale and provide many services to the community,” Covington said.
Instead of featuring programs of its own, the Center offers space for existing local organizations to host their own established services. The Center consists of two rooms, one computer lab, and one large meeting room, in YPD heaquarters; it was built and funded by Yale in 2006.
Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, associate vice president of New Haven and State Affairs, said the focus on learning and literacy programs in the partnership with New Haven Reads benefits New Haven youth.
The center also offers other educational programs, such as the annual volunteer income tax preparation assistance for neighborhood residents and the daily Talented and Gifted program offered by New Haven public schools, he added.
“The success of the center can be measured by the fact that it is so well used every day, and the usage now is heavier and steadier than it has ever been since it opened,” Morand said.
The Talented and Gifted program (T.A.G.), sponsored by the New Haven Board of Education, brings eighth-graders who have been identified as academically exceptional from 15 public schools across New Haven to the Center for three hours each week. The programs aims to help develop the kids’ critical thinking skills in a creative setting, offering courses such as film production and forensic science.
Marcella Flake, a teacher who has been working at the center since its opening, said that the location and the center’s affiliation with Yale have been extremely beneficial to the students.
“It has been great because we can use Yale faculty as teachers,” she said. She cited as examples students learning biology from Dr. Nancy Kerk, a Yale associate research scientist, and being allowed to explore the YPD’s forensics lab by Assistant Chief Ronnell Higgins.
Flake also said that she has seen an improvement in student’s attitudes towards T.A.G. as the center has allowed its approach to learning to become more hands-on. Though one of her students last year was scheduled for an appendectomy on the last day of T.A.G., he made his mother bring him to class despite his frail state, Flake recalled.
New Haven Reads, one of the most popular programs, is a free tutoring service for children of any age. Though the Learning Center is one of three locations housing the organization, Education Director Tanya Smith said that the Center was integral to the increasing success of the program.
“We started off with about 100 kids, and now we’re up to 450 children that we tutor every week,” she said.
Because the center provides a larger amount of space, Smith added, New Haven Reads has been able to add more diverse options to its range of courses. The organization debuted an SAT prep program last year, and they now offer a book club for kids and their parents called Book Voyagers.
Additionally, Smith said that by using Yale students as volunteers, New Haven Reads has greatly strengthened ties between Yale and the local community.
“The fact that we do utilize a lot of the Yale University students as tutors gives them an insight into the community, as they get to know families and kids who are residents of New Haven.”
Steven Banks ’12, a tutor from New Haven Reads who frequents the Learning Center, said he agreed with Smith. He added that he values the Center because of the individual relationships that it fosters.
“My favorite aspect is seeing progress made week by week. When I can work with the same student over and over again, seeing in four weeks’ time a kid who refused to read open up to me and be happy and exited to be there is the greatest thing,” he said.
The Learning Center also offers classes geared towards adults, including Zumba exercise classes, literacy learning classes, which teach English to immigrants, and a free tax service that provides experienced volunteers to fill out residents’ tax forms.