This year, Dwight Hall’s Freshmen in Service Program will prime its participants to tackle leadership positions within the community service organization.
Starting this year — the program’s fourth — freshman participants will spend the fall semester volunteering at local nonprofits and attending dinners with speakers and in the spring, pivot toward institutional work. Second semester, freshmen will be able to implement their own service projects and attend Dwight Hall Student Executive Committee meetings to better understand the institution’s inner workings and available resources, with the hope that they will hold Dwight Hall leadership positions in coming years.
“This year and in the future, we are putting all of our effort into growing and cultivating a program that trains the future leaders of Dwight Hall,” Dwight Hall Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18 said. “Due to the interest that we have had during this application cycle, we are confident that the freshmen possess all the tools that will allow them to become thoughtful and passionate leaders within the realm of service and social justice.”
This also marks the first year that executive leadership will not change hands in the middle of the year, as a result of cabinet bylaws passed last year that require Dwight Hall co-coordinators to serve two-year terms.
More cohesive leadership will better guide the program to its goals, D’Ambrosio said. Due to miscommunication within the Executive Committee, programming and volunteering opportunities cropped up mostly toward the end of the spring semester.
“It was sort of messy last year because second semester we did more and met more with Freshmen in Service because first semester there was a completely different ex-comm board,” Freshmen in Service Co-Coordinator Nafeesa Abuwala ’19 said. “It was completely weird because in the middle of the year there was a total transition, but this year there will be more cohesive communication because the same people are going to be there to make sure all the rules aren’t changing.”
As of its Sunday night deadline, the program received 60 applications for roughly 15 spots, Freshmen in Service Co-Coordinator Matthew Coffin ’19 said. About a third of the participants will probably be selected from the pool of students who did FOCUS on New Haven, Dwight Hall’s service-minded preorientation program that began accepting freshmen last summer, he said.
Freshmen in Service saw roughly the same number of applicants last year, and Coffin said he and Abuwala were hoping to double or triple the number of spots in future years, depending on the success of the program’s new structure. This approach marks a significant change from last year, when communication issues on the Executive Committee resulted in less programming and volunteer experience for the then-freshmen, Abuwala said.
“Last year’s focus was more on doing service; we went to volunteer sites and met with nonprofit leaders,” Coffin said. “That was OK, but we all thought Freshmen in Service is kind of a gateway into a position in Dwight Hall, so it makes sense to give freshmen more opportunities to get involved with the Hall as an institution.”
The two program coordinators have been working since the spring to arrange visits to volunteer sites — such as New Haven Reads and Sunrise Café, a volunteer-run free breakfast cafe — and events with speakers from local nonprofits. The visits will take place every weekend excluding breaks, and organizers have already confirmed six out of eight volunteer sites, Abuwala said.
In the spring, freshman participants will shadow the incoming Executive Committee, which will be elected this November. All freshmen will learn firsthand how the institution works and which resources will be available to them, both when implementing their own service projects second semester and when presiding as potential committee members in future years.
“We need to understand that there’s already a lot of really great work being done in New Haven that has nothing to do with Yale at all,” Coffin said of the local nonprofits involved in the program. “We want to learn from them and want freshmen to learn from them too.”
Another focus of the program will be pushing freshmen not just toward service, but to projects that are actually needed, Coffin said. This year, Freshmen in Service will make a bigger effort to listen to the community and respond to local needs, he said.
Application decisions for Freshmen in Service will be made by the end of this week.