School’s out but learning continues in Yale summer programs for New Haven students

This summer, as in years past, hundreds of New Haven students are participating in summer programs hosted by Yale in science, medicine, arts, and humanities.

Claudia Merson, director of public school partnerships at the university’s Office of New Haven & State Affairs, said Yale is committed to using its resources to provide opportunities for local New Haven students.

“As a university, the biggest gifts we have to give are the resources we give to our own students and our faculty, staff, and students,” she explained. “In all of our programming, it’s not to remediate or fix anything, but it’s to welcome these middle and high school students as the youngest members of our academic community.”

Long-standing programs like Pathways Summer Scholars Program and the Ulysses S. Grant Program are two of the biggest examples of Yale’s commitment to New Haven students, she said.

The Pathways Summer Scholars Program is a free, two-week long program for 100 high school students, in which current Yale students serve as teaching assistants and mentors. This summer, workshops on green chemistry, web development and coding, neurobiology, consciousness, and more are being offered for the first time.

Virtually all the participants are among the 1,077 students who are involved in other Yale Pathways STEM programs during the school year. Brooke Joyner, a rising senior at Hill Regional Career High School, is in the Pathways Summer Scholar program for the third summer in a row and has participated in about 1,000 hours of Yale outreach programs since 2012, including over 550 hours of STEM outreach. Joyner is an example of how Yale hopes to build long-term relationships with New Haven students, Merson said.

“Some of the best teaching and learning is relational. We’ve made a deep commitment to the children in the New Haven public schools that withstood the test of time. I think it’s important for us to think of the relationship with the students as a long-term one so that our internal community all works together really beautifully to get these students from one opportunity to another,” she explained.

Founded in 1953, the U.S. Grant Program is a six-week summer program for talented middle school students. Each morning, current Yale students teach small, single-grade classes of their own design to challenge and excite the students. The program has 77 New Haven students participating this summer.

Merson first started working for U.S. Grant at Yale 20 years ago, and she quickly came to realize the impact the program has had on the New Haven community. As she stood at a corner with a sign to help direct families to the orientation, cars would pass by and honk their horns, and people would stop by to share their stories of U.S. Grant with her, she said.

“Even as a new Yale employee, I felt the history of the university’s work within this local community,” she said. “Most universities have some sort of engagement with the community that they’re in. I think what’s different with Yale’s is that it is connected: There’s an infrastructure here, and we make it remarkably easy for members of our Yale community to engage with New Haven students and we make it really easy for students and families to navigate our resources.”

She added that the “wonderful” working relationship Yale has with New Haven schools resulted from Yale understanding what it is that the public schools are trying to do and supporting that in the best way possible. While all programs are designed to be offered again and again, Merson said there’s always room for expansion and change. Recently, Pathways to Arts and Humanities was started so students can have opportunities outside the sciences and enjoy a wider variety of experiences.

“It enables us to work deliberately, and we found these internships are really important to helping young students realize what their interests are … It can be a godsend for students to know right away that an internship they’re doing now is not something they want to do for the rest of their lives,” she explained.

Another recently founded program is the Morse Summer Music Academy as part of the Music in Schools Initiative at the Yale School of Music. Since 2010, students between 4th and 12th grade convene daily at Yale for 5 hours of intensive classes, rehearsals, and lessons taught by Yale School of Music teaching artists, alumni, and faculty as well as New Haven public school teachers and Yale music affiliates. This year’s academy has 104 students participating, including the Lampo siblings from Fair Haven. Jordan, the eldest, just graduated from Wilbur Cross High School and she will be entering Yale as a freshman in Trumbull College in the fall.

Ultimately, Merson believes the “continuity” of the programs is their biggest strength. She recalls that as she was leaving a U.S. Grant event one day and pulling out from her parking space, she noticed the person in the car behind her was William Ruiz, who participated in the Yale Summer Scholar program with his three older sisters when they were children and whose younger sisters participated in U.S. Grant.

“There’s a richness when you can walk around town and meet people who have been involved in our programs. There are multiple generations of kids, and now I know many of them. I think as a university we play an important role in the lives of these kids and it’s great that we can share our resources with them and their families,” she said.

For a full list of summer programs, visit the Office of New Haven & State Affairs website.