This summer 35 Yale students served as tutors, consultants and interns as a part of the President’s Public Service Fellowship in New Haven.
The fellowship, funded by Yale, matches each student to a different local nonprofit organization. Throughout the course of the summer, fellows worked with an adviser on projects targeting specific problems in the Elm City. Some student participants said the experience lead them to question whether the University does enough to engage with its host city.
“[Yale and New Haven] are joined together at the hip, but a lot of people don’t understand us and it’s the same for a lot of Yale students,” said Carl Stanley MUS ’15, a recipient of the fellowship. “They don’t understand the city, besides the hot spots we all go to.”
This summer, the fellowship matched 14 undergraduate students and 21 graduate students with nonprofits for eight to 11 weeks based on students’ experience and site needs, said Karen King, director of Yale’s President’s Public Service Fellowship in an email.
Service sites must also compete to work with the service fellowship each summer — those that promote economic development, neighborhood revitalization and youth education are prioritized, King said.
It can take years before an organization receives a fellow, said Julie Greenwood, executive director of Squash Haven, which teaches squash and provides academic support to New Haven students, adding that this is the first year Squash Haven received a placement after years of submitting proposals.
Aside from their projects, fellows also met with a series of New Haven leaders including Bruce Alexander ’65, Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development and former Mayor John DeStefano Jr., as well as local artists and nonprofit organizers, said Kyle Yoder ’15, a fellow placed with the New Haven’s Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism.
The fellowship’s series of speakers offered a perspective outside of the “Yale bubble” that still surrounds some Yale-based community service projects, said Sakshi Kumar ’16, a fellow placed with the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, which helps local entrepreneurs.
Though fellows said the program was valuable, some said that the experience opened their eyes to a disconnect between Yale and New Haven.
The community service initiatives started at Yale often are not as impactful as those formed by New Haven residents, Kumar said.
Others chimed in with concerns that Yale isn’t helping the Elm City as much as it could.
“The University can send out a lot of students into the communities, and that’s really impactful, but the University also needs to commit more resources,” said Fish Stark ’17, a fellow placed in Squash Haven.
Outside of committing more resources, some fellows called for an improved dialogue between Yale and New Haven.
“Asking if Yale should throw more money at the City is missing the point,” said Zac Krislov ’15, former fellow in Common Grounds, a high school urban farm and environmental education center. “I do think there are areas where Yale could be more involved in building the community dialogue.”
Over 600 Yale students have contributed more than 210,000 service hours as President’s Public Service Fellows since 1994.