In “Dixwell exemplifies citywide upswing,” Alyssa Rosenberg (1/23) suggests that as a Yale community, it is time to turn attention away from selective media coverage to the issues themselves in order to find strategies “for comprehensive means of enriching the lives of all New Haven residents.” As a Yale alumnus, New Haven resident, youth worker and activist, I completely agree. Throughout the city there are people, organizations and resources dedicated to finding such strategies and solutions.
Bike theft and muggings are not new to this city nor any other city across the nation. (I feel safe in New Haven, as I do in any city that I take the time to explore and know.) The greatest liability of this city is not the “bad reputation it acquired in the 1990s,” but the enduring legacy of racism and poverty most clearly identified in the continued educational achievement gap between students from poor and wealthy school districts, youth-on-youth violence and lack of urban youth employment opportunities. It is to these effects that we owe our attention.
As Rosenberg suggested, we should celebrate the contributions Yale University has made to the greater community in its relationship with New Haven’s public schools, including the new Yale Urban Teaching Initiative, America Reads and Dwight Hall Public School Interns. Enhancing our public schools is just one part of the solution, however.
As members of both the Yale and New Haven communities, Yale students should seek to support and celebrate the successes within or near city lines. Such a goal can easily be realized through the efforts of teachers and civil servants working every day to better their community, youth leaders paving the way for future generations, and a dedicated nonprofit and philanthropic community. Finding strategies to appropriately support our young people requires comprehensive commitment not only to creating new opportunities but also to supporting existing solutions.
Through my involvement with Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, a longstanding community-based youth organization supporting the social and educational development of more than 300 children and youth citywide, I have noticed a disturbing downward trend of Yale student involvement in community-based organizations that require more than a few hours of simple one-on-one tutoring per week.
Yale students were intricately involved in LEAP’s founding nearly 15 years ago and have served as mentors and teachers to many hundreds of New Haven children throughout organizational history. But none of our 30 paid positions for college students are currently filled by any of Yale’s 5,200 undergraduates. In such a multi-tiered mentoring program, the lack of Yale participation negatively impacts our ability not only to expose the children of our communities to mentors from diverse educational, ethnic and geographic backgrounds, but also to break down barriers between Yale and the high school students we employ. And the effects reverberate on both sides of the divide — though they are motivated and talented young leaders, none of the 17 college-bound tutorees applied to Yale.
In his Jan. 1, 2006 inauguration speech, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. recognized the need for action when he announced the launching of a citywide youth initiative and asked New Haven residents to play a role in the new initiatives. “I call on each of you to join me in dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly to a greater challenge,” he said, “a challenge to make New Haven the most nurturing, supportive and caring environment for our youth.”
I love New Haven, and I loved Yale. It is with love that I call on every Yale faculty member, administrator and student to continue to support New Haven’s public schools and to join the city and its community-based organizations in their dedication to nurture, to support, and most importantly, to care.
Ally Brundige ’02 is the youth development director for LEAP.