Yale Students Spend Summer Working for New Haven As President's Public Service Fellows

The 1997-98 academic year has officially ended, but 35 Yale students have chosen to remain in New Haven throughout the summer to serve their host city as President’s Public Service Fellows. They will work in community gardens and city parks, develop bilingual library programs, plan affordable housing and advocate for people with disabilities, among other projects. This is the largest group of Fellows chosen since the program was implemented four years ago.

Established by Yale President Richard C. Levin, the fellowships provide stipends to students who wish to work on community-based projects for eight to 10 weeks during their summer hiatus. The stipends free students from financial concerns while they work in the public interest. The University-provided support also lifts from community organizations the burden of finding money to pay summer workers. Fellowship stipends this year range from $2,720 to $3,400.

“In this fifth year of the President’s Public Service Fellowship program, we continue to be proud of the commitment made by Yale students to the New Haven community,” notes Nina Glickson, assistant to the President. “The Fellows contribute to the strengthening of ties between Yale and its neighbors, and also welcome the opportunity to learn while they serve in the community.”

Yale students at all levels are eligible to be Fellows. This year 22 undergraduates and 13 graduate and professional students were chosen from a competitive pool of more than 100 applicants. Each year, applicants far outnumber the available fellowships, and the number of Fellows has grown steadily, from 20 in 1994 to this year’s 35.

“I think that reflects the fact that the program has been such a success,” says Glickson. “A lot of organizations in the community are interested in having our students work with them. They know what we’re all about.” She adds that community needs are so great that sometimes an organization requests more than one fellow.

“We happen to have two of the most outstanding young women,” says Frances “Bitsie” Clark, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven Inc. “They are absolutely the most wonderful kind of resource the University can make available to an institution.” Clark adds that fellows Erika Potter and Kristin Rising are “doing everything – writing articles, doing bulk mailings, raising money and making artworks.” The undergraduates also served as site staff for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Says Clark, “They are bright, able and magnificently educated kids.”

While undergraduates generally are placed with an organization on the basis of expressed organizational need, graduate students have the option of submitting a project proposal. Fellows meet regularly to discuss their work, and each submits a report to President Levin at the end of the summer.

Melanie Mowinski, director of the President’s Public Service Fellows program, organizes the weekly meetings. A graduate student at the Divinity School (1999) with strong interests in art and community service, Mowinski says, “This is a fabulous program. It introduces Yale students to parts of New Haven that they didn’t know existed and shows them how the city works. The students are a group of idealistic, motivated people who are willing to go out and make things happen. The program itself strengthens the bonds between Yale and New Haven, a relationship that keeps growing. It’s clear that both sides have a keen interest in making the relationship work.”

Robert Kilpatrick, director of public relations, development and health education at the Hill Health Center, says he and other center administrators appreciate the opportunity the fellowship program gives them to “get some free help for the summer. That really is important,” he notes, “especially when you’re struggling financially. The program helps provide needed services.”

This is the third year the Hill Health Center is welcoming a President’s Public Service Fellow. Undergraduate Arlene Davis works in the perinatal, pediatric and quality-assurance areas of the center. Her duties include creating informational displays for patients and shadowing pediatrician Dr. Robert Windom on his rounds.

“We were very impressed by her qualifications – that’s why we assigned her to three different areas,” says Kilpatrick. “The quality of students in the program is always high. They’re also very nice people, and they’re great to work with.”

Lisette Carrithers, Yale College Class of 1999, is spending her summer exploring the viability of a large-scale public market in New Haven. She is based at the Office of the Development Administrator for the City of New Haven.

“What we’re looking at is a farmers’ market, but oriented more towards the city economy,” Carrithers says. “There would be fresh fruits and vegetables, just like any other public market, but also meat, cheese, fish and prepared foods.”

Centrally located in the downtown area, the public market would be open year-round, seven days a week – not just seasonally and on Saturdays, as are many farmers’ markets. The concept could serve as a catalyst for increased interaction in the downtown area, as well as a springboard for people looking to start a small business, Carrithers suggests.

“It would be really wonderful for New Haven if the market could also have a ‘day table’ component,” Carrithers notes. “Independent vendors could rent a table for a week to several months. The single most important part of any business is distribution – how you actually get your product to market. This takes care of that component.”

Scott Javor, Yale College Class of 1999, is based in the New Haven Department of Police Service this summer. He is using his computer skills to help the department better serve the city’s senior citizens. One of his projects involves analyzing existing data on calls for police service to detect geographic and other patterns.

“I’m developing a ‘concept paper’ for the elderly – including things like identifying elderly abuse – to get a better idea of how the senior population can be served,” he says.

Graduate student Frederick Davis is working with East Rock Park rangers to document the role of the park as a biological preserve. He also is researching the families who contributed to this city landmark.

East Rock is “a nice urban park,” says Davis, “but it’s also something more. Birds breed there, and there are neotropical migrants in fairly large numbers, suggesting that the park has a certain integrity” that should be protected, he says. To help increase awareness of the biological and ecological importance of the park, Davis will lead walks through the area.

“The park brings together various communities of New Haven,” Davis adds. “It’s a really important place, a vital place. I hope this project further enhances the educational and recreational opportunities offered in East Rock Park.”

Michael Morand, assistant secretary for education and human development in the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, supervises the fellowship program.

A complete listing of President’s Public Service Fellows follows.

Undergraduate President’s Public Service Fellows

Tania Alfonso, Class of 2001, and Jonathan Merson, Class of 1999, are developing bilingual (English and Spanish) youth programs at the New Haven Free Public Library.

Erin Arruda and Sue Barnes, both Class of 2000, are working with middle school students participating in the Yale Department of Athletics-sponsored National Youth Sports Program.

Annie Barrett, Class of 2000, works with The Community Builders, Inc., planning two affordable housing projects, one in the Dixwell neighborhood, the other in the Hill neighborhood.

Lisette Carrithers, Class of 1999, working in the Office of the Development Administrator, is exploring of idea of a public market in New Haven.

Francine Chew, Class of 2000, teaches in the Ulysses S. Grant program, which serves academically talented but financially needy middle and high school students.

Sung-Min Chung, Class of 1999, works at Footebridge, a literary program at Foote School.

Arlene Davis, Class of 1999, develops marketing ideas and works on health care issues at the Hill Health Corporation.

Lily Dorment, Class of 1999, is program director at Urban Solutions Inc., a new nonprofit organization that onvolves residents in improving their neighborhoods.

Julio Gonzalez, Class of 1999, works on three major projects at the Chamber of Commerce that expose him to the different areas within the Chamber. Gonzalez is Alderman for Ward #1.

Adam Gordon, Class of 1999, works at the New Haven City Plan Department on development projects related to natural resources, parks and open space.

Jenny Heikkila, Class of 2000, coordinates a summer camp program in the Kensington Square neighborhood as part of The Community Builders Inc.

Rebecca Holmes and Courtney Lane, both Class of 2000, work with middle school students participating in the Yale Department of Athletics-sponsored National Youth Sports Program.

Scott Javor, Class of 1999, assists the New Haven Department of Police Service in providing services to the elderly.

Anna Kaye, Class of 2001, works with the Community Garden Projects as part of the Livable City Initiative.

Tanya Loh, Class of 2000, works with the City of New Haven’s Youth Services Bureau.

Celine Mizrahi, Class of 2000, works in the intergenerational program at Casa Otonal in the Hill neighborhood.

Erika Potter, Class of 2000, works on the monthly publication New Haven Arts! at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.

Kristin Rising, Class of 2001, also works at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, on event planning and community development.

Rebecca Williams, Class of 2001, teaches at the Summerbridge Program for New Haven youth at the Hopkins School.

President’s Public Service Fellows from the Graduate and Professional Schools

Seth Cook, Class of 2003 at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, works on neighborhood revitalization efforts established through the Urban Resources Initiative.

Frederick Davis, Class of 2002 at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is completing both a wildlife census at East Rock Park and research on families who contributed to the park. He also conducts related nature walks.

Nathaniel Demosthene, Class of 2000 at the Divinity School, helps the Summer Program coordinator prepare an activities program for children in emergency housing at Christian Community Action.

Rajit Dosanjh, Class of 2000 at the School of Law , focuses on advocacy for people with disabilities at Yale’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization.

William Forrest, Class of 1999 at the School of Architecture, examines community design issues in the Dwight neighborhood at Yale’s Urban Design Workshop.

Sonia Nieuwejaar, Class of 1999 at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, coordinates summer projects and researches future options for the Dwight Consulting Group.

Shannon O’Neil, Class of 1999 at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, works on an independent project researching microenterprise groups and funds and the possibility of support within New Haven for such programs.

Zachary Pall, Class of 1999 at the Divinity School, coordinates discussion groups on race relations for Community Mediation Inc.

James Park, Class of 2000 at the School of Law, works at Yale’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization serving clients incarcerated in Connecticut prisons.

Diane Robbins, Class of 1999 at the School of Nursing , works as a nurse practitioner at the Central Medical Unit.

Demetrius Semien, Class of 2000 at the Divinity School, is a case manager and drama teacher at the Youth Center for Change.

Christiana Soares, Class of 1999 at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, is based at the New Haven City Plan Department and works on developing projects related to natural resources, parks and open space.

Roxanne Willis, Class of 2003 at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is on the staff of the New Haven Ecology Project, working on environmental education for New Haven youth at the West Rock Nature Center.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325