Yalies, local professionals edit college essays

With help from Yale students and local residents, New Haven high school students may have a leg up going into this season’s college admissions cycle.

The Coop Center for Creativity (CCC), a local nonprofit organization, drew 18 New Haven high school students to the first-ever “College Essay Liftoff” on Sunday afternoon. The event, held at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on College Street, featured local professionals and students from Yale and the University of New Haven who volunteered to work individually with high school students on their college application essays. Helen Kauder, one of the founders of the CCC, said the event aimed to help students take advantage of everything New Haven has to offer.

“Our work is about connecting resources in the community, such as individual artists, creative designers, architects and writers, with high school students and New Haven public schools,” Kauder said. “We’ve been primarily focused on Coop High School but this event is our first effort to work citywide.”

The Coop Center for Creativity, located across the street from Coop high school, is a citywide volunteer movement that seeks to encourage and engage students from New Haven public schools by developing their talents and expanding on their interests.

The CCC asked high school students to register for the event by Nov. 1, and paired each of them with a volunteer to help edit their essays. Ten Yale students volunteered at the event, in addition to several recent alums like Mark Oppenheimer ’96 GRD ’03, coordinator of the Yale Journalism Initiative. In addition to Coop High School, others students also hailed from James Hillhouse High School, The Sound School and New Haven Academy.

Francis Lott, a senior at the Coop school who hopes to study visual arts in college, said she hoped the event would help her strengthen her essay so colleges can see how unique she is.

“From this, now I know how a college essay is supposed to sound,” Lott said. “I think it will help me with other college essays, too.”

Lissa Winstanley, a literary novelist and short story writer who volunteered for the event, said she felt her skill set would allow her to help students effectively. She added that the number of volunteers showed the willingness of the New Haven community to help out with high school students’ futures.

Ayaska Fernando ’08, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Yale, said he volunteered because he has a passion for helping students focus on the positive aspects of what they have to offer colleges.

“I was pleasantly surprised that all of the students have these great ideas and thoughts within themselves, they just need some help to draw it out,” Fernando said. “I was teaching a very smart student, who was balancing a lot of things, working 15 hours per week, and part of the satisfaction is helping students see the good things about themselves and not just the bad things.”

While the CCC initially planned for the event to take place on Saturday and Sunday, it was cancelled on Saturday due to a scheduling conflict with the SAT examination.

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