This semester, Dwight Hall is expanding its Outreach Program, introducing three new outreach coordinator roles to better connect campus groups such as fraternities and athletic teams to service opportunities in the community.
Dwight Hall co-coordinator Briana Burroughs ’17 said the organization brought back and expanded an outreach program that was phased out several years ago in favor of growing Dwight Hall’s Days of Service programming. The expanded outreach program aims to connect community organizations in need of volunteers with extracurricular groups that are not primarily service related. Burroughs said she has wanted to revamp Dwight Hall’s Outreach Program since she joined the organization’s board in 2014. The program has been growing steadily ever since.
“A lot of times, one-time service organizations mean well but can’t necessarily participate in the most meaningful service because they don’t have long-term vision,” Dwight Hall co-coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18 said. “That’s what we can provide through Dwight Hall because we’ve been here for 130 years, we have lots of relationships within the community and that’s where we hope to drive the service mentality at Yale.”
Burroughs said the Outreach Program so far consists of the new Greek and athletics liaisons, as well as a general outreach coordinator who oversees residential college representatives in 11 of the 12 colleges. These students are tasked with communicating with members of the communities they serve in order to inform them about service opportunities and connect them with outreach partners in the Greater New Haven area.
In the early days of this semester’s expanded Outreach Program, much of Dwight Hall’s focus has been on establishing contact with individuals such as sports captains and fraternity leaders to gauge interest, Burroughs said. Athletics Outreach Coordinator David McCullough ’17, a staff reporter for the News, said that while athletes are extremely busy, many teams have expressed enthusiasm about the program. McCullough said he hopes he can make it as easy as possible for them to get involved in community service despite student-athletes’ time-intensive extracurricular commitments.
“The wonderful thing about athletics is that sports inspire people,” McCullough said. “The city comes to our games and looks up to our athletes, so if we can make sure that those athletes are being complete role models, in classrooms, on the field and in the community, that would become a wonderful gold standard around campus.”
Outreach Coordinator Sarah Pajka ’17 said the program has already facilitated several exciting partnerships. Many of the residential colleges have formed connections with local community organizations, such as students from Berkeley College who work at the Sunrise Cafe — a restaurant that serves free breakfast to the homeless — every week and Pierson College students who regularly volunteer at Columbus House, a privately run New Haven homeless shelter.
Pajka added that to her delight, members of the New Haven community have been reaching out to Dwight Hall to seek out Yale students with specific skill sets, passions and backgrounds. Chi Psi is working on creating a buddy program and is holding fundraisers for the pediatric hematology and oncology ward at Yale-New Haven Hospital. When nonprofit bike organization BEEEP! approached the Yale Cycling team in January to get involved with their cause, the team enthusiastically agreed to partner with the organization to plan service efforts.
“What we can provide is a relationship that’s meaningful on both sides, so that the nonprofit that really needs these students can be hooked up with a student group that really wants to get something out of working with them,” Burroughs said. “With people contacting us, we’ve seen people realizing that there is an institutional side to Dwight Hall and that there are ways to get involved other than member groups.”
Burroughs and D’Ambrosio said that while they are excited about expanding outreach efforts and creating stronger ties between students and community organizations, they are wary of doing too much too fast. Burroughs and D’Ambrosio discussed looking to cultural centers and the LGBTQ Co-op as potential next niches for outreach in the fall. But they stressed sustainable growth and meaningful service must both be priorities.
According to D’Ambrosio, the Outreach Program serves to bridge the perceived gap of service on campus between Dwight Hall “activists” and Greek life “fundraisers.” While he eventually hopes all Yale students will participate either in Dwight Hall member groups or long-term partnerships with local community service organizations, he said he is more concerned with making sure students understand how and why they are serving. Burroughs added that Dwight Hall is unique in that it also gives students the opportunity to have a conversation about what social justice means.
“There aren’t a lot of places on this campus where you can just sit down and talk to people about what service should look like and what it means to you,” Burroughs said. “We provide that discussion space with like-minded people.”
The Outreach Program has already made connections between community nonprofits and student groups such as Yale Outdoors, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, dance groups, sororities and the Freshman Class Council.
Bennett Byerly ’19, FCC community service chair, said he is working with Pajka to expand the council’s charitable events with the help of Dwight Hall. Alpha Phi Vice President of Campus Affairs Rebecca Modiano ’16 added that as a new organization, Alpha Phi looks forward to building the foundation of their relationship with Dwight Hall this semester in order to improve their ability to serve in the coming year.
Pajka added that because meaningful service is so important, she wants to focus on existing partners in order to strengthen the Outreach Program before expanding it to new partners.
By the end of the semester, she said, Dwight Hall hopes to have partnerships with all Greek and athletic organizations.
“I’ve always been in the hands on part of service; I was and still am involved with [Dwight Hall] member groups,” Pajka said. “For me it’s been really cool getting to meet so many people who are so passionate about service and care so much about improving the community, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”