Growing up here, we were told to stay away from Yale. As I’ve gotten to know more students, I’ve learned that many of you have heard the same about New Haven. These fears circulate throughout both of our communities and burden our relationships with one another, keeping us divided. In my time as Ward 22 alder, I’ve seen what Sarah Eidelson has done to bring us together.
When I first met Sarah, I expected her to be a typical Yalie, running for office to pad her resume. Often it feels like Yale students come here wanting to be the savior. Then they leave and you never hear from them again unless they become the president and you see them on television.
A lot of people in the community distrust people from Yale because it feels like they just want to study us, and we’re tired of being studies. We’re tired of being used because our situation — being poor, being of color — is demographically advantageous and statistically significant.
But Sarah was different. She didn’t show up in New Haven wanting to be an alder. And she wasn’t afraid to come to my neighborhood. She spent her time actually getting to know people in our neighborhood and working together to strengthen the community. I’m the alder for the only ward that is half Yale students and half permanent residents. Without someone from Yale to bring you inside, you can’t get behind the doors. Sarah was that person for me, bringing me inside so I could connect with my student constituents and build real relationships with them.
Usually, the Ward 1 alder’s position is mostly symbolic. If they get anything done at all, it’s a pet project. Sarah has made the role of Ward 1 alder into something more. As chair of the Board of Alders Youth Services Committee, Sarah has been driving an agenda for our city’s young people for four years. She’s constantly bringing people out to support our push to reopen the Q House, a youth and community center in my neighborhood that we’ve been struggling to bring back for over a decade. It has been so long, a lot of people have stopped believing that it’s possible. But Sarah has been my partner in fighting for the resources to make it real again. And now it’s going to happen. The way she talks about the Q House, you’d think she grew up here.
This spring I nominated Sarah for the position of minority leader, a top leadership role on the Board of Alders. Our colleagues on the Board elected her unanimously because of what she has proven to us over the past four years. She works hard. She is a leader and a fighter. Most importantly, she has shown her commitment by insisting on results for our youth.
Because of Sarah’s leadership and collaboration, millions of dollars have gone into our youth programs. Parents no longer have to hope that they hear about something for their kids to do because the New Haven Youth Map makes that information accessible to everyone. Soon our kids will be able to go to the Q House again. These things just weren’t happening before Sarah stepped up to lead the Youth Committee. And it’s not easy to imagine them continuing without her leadership.
Sarah demonstrates every day what it means to commit to being both a Yalie and a New Havener. This kind of leadership takes a lot of time, and it isn’t flashy, but it’s the only way to take on the grave challenges we face. We have no time to waste.
Jeanette Morrison is Ward 22 alder and president pro tempore of the Board of Alders. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .