This morning, thousands of New Haven schoolchildren sat down at their desks for a day of learning. Across town, homeless people woke up in shelters that kept them out of the cold. At Yale-New Haven hospital, patients with HIV/AIDS went to their doctors for treatment. On the other side of Crown Street, business owners opened their doors downtown. Some residents rode city buses to work; others walked on city sidewalks; still more drove on city roads.

All these New Haven residents have more in common than calling the Elm City home — they all also depend on the United States Census for their livelihoods.

Federal funding that supports community development grants, medical treatments, transportation and education among other New Haven programs are tied to the number of people that fill out the census in New Haven. As a result, the City estimates that each resident who fills out a census form brings $9,000 to the City in the form of programs that help all residents, especially those most in need.

As residents of New Haven during the spring, Yalies are responsible for helping the City secure that help. The good news: it’s easy. By filling out a simple five-question form (name, age, sex, race, ethnicity), you can help bring $9,000 to those who need it most in the communities just outside our campus’ gates.

Filling out your census form is also the law. Just like you would never think to drive without a license or leave your taxes unfiled at the end of the year, don’t neglect your legal responsibility to the census. The census law is, in fact, one of the oldest laws of all: Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution states that “Enumeration shall be made … every 10 years,” Every 10 years since 1790, it has been every American’s responsibility to cooperate with that effort. And, even if you file your taxes, vote and have your license from your home state, or even are an international student, under U.S. law every Yalie must fill out their census form in New Haven because we live here most of the time. As long as you live in New Haven this spring, by law you count here.

Most importantly, however, the census is about equality. When you fill out your census form on Tuesday if you live on campus, you will receive a sticker that reads “I Count.” As roughly 5 percent of New Haven’s residents, we are responsible for ensuring that our City — however temporary our time here may feel — counts too. According to the State of Connecticut, roughly two-thirds of Yalies were not counted in the 2000 Census 10 years ago. As a result, the City lost more than $30 million in sorely needed funds. This time, Yale can achieve a 100 percent count — but we can’t do it without you.

More than half of Americans have already completed their census forms. On Tuesday, it’s your turn to join them and be counted — make sure to go to your college’s Master’s Office or Common Room and fill out a form, too. It may be your most important 60 seconds of 2010.

David Broockman is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College and the coordinator of YaleCounts.