Approximately 125 community-minded freshmen ventured out into New Haven Saturday for the inaugural Freshman Day of Service, bonding with classmates while volunteering at a range of city organizations.
Coordinated by the Yale College Council, the Freshman College Council and the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, the event was designed to encourage students to break out of the “Yale bubble” and become a resource to the city, organizer Jessica Bialecki ’08 said.
The participating freshmen were divided in 10 groups, each sent to serve at a different project site accompanied by upperclassmen project captains. Project sites included community parks and gardens, the YMCA, the New Haven Book Bank, homeless shelters, the Christian Community Action center and the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.
YCC President Steven Syverud ’06, who came up with the idea for the event, said he first realized all that New Haven has to offer when he stayed in the city to do research the summer after his sophomore year. From this point on, he said, he started thinking of ways to ensure that his fellow students would get to know and appreciate the city as well.
“I tried to think of a way for freshmen to orient themselves to the city early on in their student careers,” he said.
The afternoon’s events opened with a ceremony in Dwight Hall, during which Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander, Dwight Hall co-coordinator Ben Staub ’06 and YCC representative Austin Broussard ’06 all delivered short speeches.
Salovey focused his speech on the value of volunteering. He said he predicted the new students would come to love the city as much as he does by the end of their time at Yale.
“Volunteering is an act of heroism,” Salovey said, quoting former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73. “I hope that you will continue to be heroes during your time at Yale.”
Bialecki said Salovey has since told her that the event would continue to receive support from the Office of New Haven and State Affairs in subsequent years. Syverud said new Freshman Dean George Levesque, who was also present at the ceremony, told the organizers he is considering integrating the day of service into freshman orientation starting next year.
After the ceremony, freshmen volunteers and upperclassmen project captains were dispatched to the project sites. Bialecki said everything ran very smoothly, and the event seemed to serve its purpose.
“I am from New Haven, and my dream was to see the town-gown barrier being broken down,” she said. “This event is the reason why I came to Yale.”
Jennifer James ’08, a project captain who led students organizing supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims through Christian Community Action in the Hill neighborhood, said the experience introduced her to a new side of the city.
“I though it was really cool because I saw a part of New Haven that I have never seen,” she said. “I have really come to love New Haven and I want to make freshmen love it too.”
Participant Chris Lewine ’09 said he appreciated the opportunity to interact with some fellow students who were sincerely interested in community service.
“It is an opportunity to meet people who aren’t just doing it to pack their resumes,” he said.