Starting this January, New Haven’s public service departments will usher in student interns from the University of New Haven in the debut of its Public Safety Cooperative Work/Education Program.
The Elm City will fund positions for 10 UNH students studying criminology or forensic sciences to spend one semester away from classes, working 35 hours per week in either the fire, police, emergency medical services or communications departments. Through their internships, students will perform tasks for the city such as creating databases for emergency response units and analyzing crime and fire data. Mayor Toni Harp and UNH president Steven Kaplan announced the co-op last Thursday.
City officials point to the mutually beneficial nature of the program for both students and the New Haven public safety departments. Meanwhile, students interviewed agreed that the co-op has potential for success — but only if it achieves buy-in from its target audience.
“There might be students who are just so eager to get in a work field that they just might want to [participate],” said Lauren Balestrieri, a sophomore in UNH’s College of Criminal Justice. “I think if it were more well known it would gather interest.”
Balestrieri said that while interning in the Elm City is popular among students studying criminal justice, many might feel apprehensive about leaving campus for a semester. She added that many students in the criminal justice school would rather stay on campus for eight consecutive semesters than postpone graduating.
While all students interviewed agreed that the opportunities provided in the co-op have the potential to garner widespread student interest, only one of five students in the college of criminal justice and forensic sciences interviewed said that they were aware that the co-op was starting this school year.
UNH sophomore Carlos Soto said that despite the program’s slow start in gaining popularity on campus, the co-op would soon be embraced alongside existing programs with the FBI and New Haven Police Department.
Attaining buy-in from the students starts on campus, said City Hall spokesperson Laurence Grotheer, adding that the college, not the city, has traditionally been responsible for recruiting students for internships within New Haven.
According to Grotheer, the Public Safety Cooperative is the most recent in a series of collaborations between UNH’s college of criminal justice and Elm City public safety departments. He said that in addition to providing field experience for students, programs like the co-op help the city build a pool of potential public safety employees.
“For a student, [the co-op] would cement his or her interest in public safety, so it could indirectly lead to employment in the city,” Grotheer said.
But, he added, interning through the Public Safety Cooperative does not guarantee employment.
In addition to the cooperative, the city partners with UNH through a Command College that trains police chiefs and command staff to be supervisors as well as through Project Longevity, which aims to reduce gang violence in Connecticut.
Harp said on Thursday that the cooperative is a boon for the future of Elm City’s emergency response.
“This new demonstration of the alliance between the city of New Haven and the University of New Haven builds on the growing reputation of each,” Harp said. “The co-op program announced today cements the importance of preparing new public safety professionals with effective, real-world, public-safety experience.”
Pharmaceutical company Alexion and the Connecticut Junior Republic have also joined the cooperative and will sponsor three students this year.