‘Spring Break in New Haven’ a success

New Haven might not be filled with palm trees and cocktails, but some Yalies this spring break found that New Haven has its own type of fun attractions and highlights.

A record 23 participants took part in a week of service activities that ran from March 5-11 under the program “Spring Break in New Haven,” said program leader Callista Isabelle, associate University chaplain. She said this year’s program included more time for daily reflection on community service performed during the week, which will become the norm if there is positive student feedback. The program, in its foruth year, visited various non-profits, local restaurants, and sights such as the Long Wharf Theater in an effort to get to know the city’s recreational scene.

“The 23 students really invested themselves in the program,” Isabelle said. “We hope they have a sense of New Haven as their city, full of opportunities to serve our neighbors and also explore the city’s amazing resources.”

Of the six student participants interviewed, all gave positive reviews and said they thought that it was a worthwhile way explore the Elm City through a service lens.

“It was extremely inspiring and informative,” said Joyce Kalema ART ’12. “I got to know New Haven through the people who were trying very hard to address the problems in the city.” She added that if she had not partcipated in the program, she would have continued to hold a “negative view” of New Haven.

The program’s full itinerary included cooking dinner at Fellowship Place — a day center for adults with mental disabilities in West Rock — harbor clean-up at Long Wharf, and farm work at Common Ground High School. Despite the comprehensive overview of New Haven’s non-profits, the program was a “double-edged sword” for participant Theresa Bailey ’14.

“Everyone found some place where they can be plugged in,” Bailey said. “It was just challenging because I wanted to do more and stay longer. it was jarring to get emotionally attached and then ripped away.”

Mary Guerrera, executive director of Fellowship Place, said the spring break group that arrived at the day center was much larger and stayed longer than the usual group from the Chaplain’s office that visits every Friday night. The large groups allowed the center’s members to spend more time with the students, said Carol Legman, director of program services.

Three participants interviewed said they appreciated the extra time to reflect each day which took form in journal entries, discussion in small and large group settings.

“Every day after [writing in my journal] or discussion, I wish we had more time,” said Bailey. “It was phenomenal; it was impossible to digest our experience otherwise.”

For both grads and undergrads, the fact that the program was open to both sectors enhanced the experience, students said.

“Throughout the program, it did not feel like we were all different ages. I felt that we all had similar interests, particularly the problems existing in New Haven, such as homelessness, poverty and education.” Kalema said.

Fifteen students participated in the program last year.

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