Advisory: Yale Freshmen Will Get to Know New Haven at CityScape

By the time they’ve completed their first week on campus, a large group of Yale College freshmen will know the historic neighborhoods, ethnic restaurants, and opportunities for community service awaiting them in the city that will be their home for the next four years.

These students will be participating in CityScape, an intensive one-day orientation to the city of New Haven on Saturday, Sept. 6. Now in its second year, the program will give about 150 new students the chance to spend time in and learn about the Elm City through tours, hands-on participation in community service projects, and conversation with New Haven residents. This year’s CityScape program, with the theme, “Breaking Through to the Other Side,” is sponsored by Dwight Hall and the Office of New Haven Affairs, with additional support from the Bank of Boston.

CityScape participants will begin their day at 10 a.m. by taking a four-hour tour of Elm City’s neighborhoods. The freshmen will be divided into 15 groups for the tours, which will be jointly led by an upperclassman and a New Haven resident whose livelihood is entwined with the city. The latter will include New Haven aldermen Josh Civin ‘96 and Gerald Garcia ‘94; Robert Leeney, editor emeritus of The New Haven Register; Frances Bitsie Clarke, director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Inc.; and Liz Gambardella, director of Farnam Neighborhood House.

Following the tours and lunch, participants will spend three hours working at one of 10 community service projects. Among these are the Columbus House and Immanuel Baptist Church homeless shelters, the New Haven Ecology Project, the New Haven Public Library, Christian Community Action, the New Haven Register, the Audubon Street Arts District, the New Haven Land Trust Community Gardens, and Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build.

“Last year, for one of our service projects, we cleaned up a green space in the Fair Haven neighborhood,” says Chi Tschang Yale College Class of 1998 . He and several other President’s Community Service Fellows founded CityScape last summer; this year, he will be one of its directors. “While we were out there weeding, a lot of the neighborhood residents came by to ask what we were doing and eventually started pitching in. Conversations began between them and the students about the neighborhood, its schools and the city in general. Everyone learned a lot from that, and students were really grateful for the chance to experience that interaction.”

Helping to organize CityScape is Michael Morand, assistant secretary for education and development in Yale’s Office of New Haven Affairs, which in the past sponsored an orientation program called “New Haven 101.” CityScape expands on that program, engaging students in the life of their new hometown, he says.

“CityScape is a wonderful way for the newest citizens of New Haven – Yale’s incoming class – to learn about the ways they can participate in the life of the community which is their new home,” says Mr. Morand. “In the process, CityScape helps deepen and broaden the ties between Yale and our neighbors in New Haven.”

After completing community service projects, CityScape participants will gather for a dinner with Andrea Jackson-Brooks, assistant to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. In addition, Ms. Clark will discuss opportunities in the arts and the cultural life of the city, and Mr. Civin will encourage freshmen to take full advantage of New Haven’s civic life.

By the end of the orientation, freshmen will feel less like strangers and more like neighbors, and they will have learned about aspects of the city that it “sometimes takes students months, or even years, to discover,” says Mr. Tschang. “They won’t just hear about the city – they’ll learn about it hands-on.”

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