In a special presentation before the Board of Alders on Monday, nine Yale undergraduates received citations from the Board for their summer teaching work with the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, a six-week supplemental program for middle school students in New Haven.
But the the alders did not distribute the honors. Instead, the undergraduates’ former students handed them the citations directly, official city seal and all.
Alderwoman Jody Ortiz recognized the Yale students’ impact on her son who participated in the program this past summer. The teachers — Jane Buckley ’20, Sana Aslam ’20, Kishore Chundi ’20, Colin Yap ’20, Ella Henry ’20, Fatima Abaroa ’20, Courtney Nunley ’21, Gabrielle Colangelo ’21 and Leo Lehrer-Small ’22 — each received a citation from the Board for their teaching, according to Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19.
“Yale students do work in New Haven all the time, but city officials don’t recognize it often, and I think this was a really cool opportunity to do that,” Catalbasoglu said. “Giving citations is not a science, you recognize anyone you want. This is the first group of people I’ve ever given citations to … It’s like a thank you letter.”
The Grant Foundation has operated as a partnership between Yale and New Haven Public Schools since 1953 and is managed through Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, according to Aslam. During the six-week program, Yale undergraduates teach from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays with time set aside for humanities and investigation-based learning, electives and group activities. The program is built for bright students, who must pay a fee of $75 to attend once admitted. The fee also covers field trips to places of interest around New Haven and guest speaker events, according to the program’s website.
The Yale undergraduate teachers design courses based on their own interests. The teachers receive support from the Foundation’s Board of Directors, a group of New Haven public school educators and their mentors who assist in building curricula with the Yale teachers, according to Aslam.
Each alderperson retains the privilege to give citations to any individual or group in the community that have had a positive effect on that community, Catalbasoglu added. They can be congratulatory in nature or offer condolences. Often, alders will recognize local sports teams, like James Hillhouse High School’s women’s basketball team, which received citations last May for their state championship-winning season, according to a post on the team’s Instagram account.
At the Monday ceremony, Board President and Ward 23 Alder Tyisha Walker-Myers, Ortiz and Catalbasoglu gave remarks before the Yale students received their citations. These types of presentations happen before the start of every meeting of the Board after the “Divine Guidance,” a prayer or a short statement. But Catalbasoglu said that the middle school students were a sweet addition to the ceremony.
“It kind of mirrored how, just a month ago, we presented each one of them with their Grant certificates. It was all super cute and nostalgic, and I think shows how much [Alder Ortiz] cares,” Aslam, the program co-director, wrote in an email to the News. “It was a heartwarming moment to hear that Alderwoman Ortiz and her son felt similarly touched by [the teachers’] work.”
Ortiz could not be reached for comment.
The ceremony took place in the Board of Alders Chamber at City Hall.
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