Three new magnet schools added to New Haven’s rapidly expanding public education system have been given a boost through the help of an increasing number of Yale interns volunteering through Dwight Hall.
Presented with the state’s most developed magnet school system, New Haven students are able to attend theme-based schools whose curricula fit their personal interests — ranging from astronomy to aquaculture. Dwight Hall’s public school interns are helping the magnets reach their goals by introducing them to Yale’s diverse educational resources.
Claudia Merson, public school partnership coordinator at the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said the role of public school interns is to identify the school’s priorities and determine the best way to serve them using the university’s resources.
“Interns serve as the permeable membrane between Yale and the schools: they will both stop unwanted interventions and actively seek wanted ones,” she said.
Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, communications director of New Haven public schools, said that cooperation with Yale provides magnet school students with more opportunities to pursue their interests.
“They have the opportunity to perform along Yale musicians and help medical school students dissect human cadavers,” she said.
Yale student interns also have the opportunity for enrichment through their involvement in the magnet school system, Merson said. She said that when hiring interns for magnet schools, Dwight Hall tries to ensure that their interests are connected to the school’s character.
Sullivan-DeCarlo said a third of New Haven public school students currently attend one of the city’s 20 magnet schools, and that the system is expanding at an accelerating pace. Three new schools have opened in the past two years: New Haven Academy, Connecticut Scholars, and the Metropolitan Business School, the only one without Yale interns.
New Haven Academy Principal Gregory Baldwin said he and Coalition of Essential Schools Coordinator Meredith Gavrin took the initiative to create the new school, which was met with enthusiasm by Dr. Reginald Mayo, the New Haven public school superintendent, a magnet school supporter who had long wanted to create a small school focusing on critical thinking.
He said the most distinctive feature of the school is the citizenship education program, which examines history to determine ways in which individual decisions influence communities.
Connecticut Scholars began this year as an offshoot of Wilbur Cross High School, combining a rigorous academic program with opportunities to interact with New Haven’s business community, said Patti Avallone, supervisor of New Haven’s magnet school program.
Dwight Hall has already placed public school interns in New Haven Academy and Connecticut Scholars. Kristen-Elise Brooks ’08, who took over as an intern at New Haven Academy this semester, said she has been working on a college and career exploration program, which brings ninth graders to Yale classrooms. She said that her work coincides with the school’s goal to shift its focus towards college preparation.
Brooks said the experience of working at a small, new magnet school has been a positive one, because of the environment’s personal character, the absence of bureaucracy and the teachers’ openness to new ideas.
“I feel that I am making more of an impression,” she said. “It is a more personal environment. There is more creativity and a more in-depth look at educational issues.”
David Leiberman ’06, an intern at the Hill Regional Career High school, a business and science magnet begun in 1983, said his work fills a niche in the school’s needs.
“My work has concentrated on the needs of the school, rather than on enhancing its strengths,” he said. “So I mainly work with the school’s math program.”