As a summer of service nears ... a look back

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Chelsea Hinchey (center), with Rachel Good (left), an undergraduate summer intern at The Consultation Center (TCC), and Esther Armmand, who helped develop TCC's "Where We Live" program.

Even as the winter finally begins to melt away, summer is very much on the minds of those who have applied for 2015 Yale President’s Public Service Fellowships. Based on their talents and interests, the successful candidates are now being matched with 50 non-profit and public-sector agencies, where they will work for eight weeks on a variety of initiatives. One of those agencies, Yale’s Consultation Center (TCC), welcomed its first fellow last summer: Chelsea Hinchey, a graduate student in her final year of study at the Yale School of Nursing. A community based, multidisciplinary organization, TCC promotes health, wellness, and social justice throughout New Haven as well as the state and national levels. The non-profit center, which is affiliated with the Division of Prevention & Community Research in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, conducts research and evaluation, promotes youth, adult and community development, and manages community training programs for staff across Connecticut.

Here TCC communication specialist Joanna Smiley talks with Hinchey about her partnership with the center as a President’s Public Service Fellow.

Cheslea Hinchey’s main project for her fellowship was called the “Where We Live” initiative, a pilot program created by Esther Armmand, staff consultant at TCC, with the support of Deborah Stewart, director of the Youth Development Training & Resource Center. The program focused on providing New Haven youth an opportunity to discover the natural environment of the city through well-being, creative arts, and healthy eating. Hinchey oversaw program implementation at two different sites in New Haven — developing the curriculum, planning field trips, supervising volunteers, and forming and maintaining collaborations with community partners. At a third site in New Haven, Hinchey organized programming for 32 youths twice a week at Church Street South, a TCC outreach site already supported by Yale nursing students.

How did you hear first hear about the Yale President’s Public Service Fellowship?

Originally, I heard about the fellowship through a mass email to the Yale student body The idea of completing a community engagement project over the summer appealed to me, as it was an opportunity to learn about New Haven and develop relationships with residents outside of the university. After learning about the many projects conducted at TCC, I felt it was the ideal site to combine my interest in psychiatry, wellness, and health. TCC’s impressive community work and research initiatives have been so influential on the city, and I was fortunate to work with the organization and a wonderful team of staff members.

Why is the President’s Public Service Fellowship important?

A key aspect of the fellowship is the importance of community and cultivating relationships between the city and the university. This project absolutely would not have been possible, nor could it have gotten started as quickly, without the support of so many local partners.

How did the Yale Public Service Fellowship change your perceptions of New Haven?

As a Connecticut resident, I thought I knew a great deal about New Haven. Throughout my childhood, I had been to the Shubert Theater, eaten at the restaurants along Chapel Street, and toured the buildings and sports complexes of Yale. It truly amazed me to learn over the course of this summer just how small a portion of the city that really is. Last summer, I visited the New Haven Museum, kayaked along the river by East Rock, planted trees in the Fair Haven neighborhood, and biked along the Farmington Canal Trail — I had never heard of these opportunities before.

Yale is really only one small part of this unique city. I truly feel like I can call New Haven home, as I feel comfortable not only around the university and hospitals, but throughout the neighborhood sites I visited, including Newhallville, Dixwell, and Church Street South. I think it is important for all residents of the city and of surrounding towns to discover how friendly, smart, and strong the people who live in these neighborhoods are. I also appreciate the fellowship for potentially changing the perceptions some residents of New Haven have about Yale University. I hope the work of the fellows this summer changed the minds of those who previously held negative beliefs of the school and bolstered any positive ideas.

What was most challenging about your “Where We Live” fellowship project?

Most summer programs are in the works for years prior to implementation, and we had mere weeks. Despite this, the pilot was a success, and we were successful at operating multiple sites across the city. Two of those sites were start-up programs with all of the curriculum and trips planned from scratch. Throughout the four-week program we had about 15 youths between these two sites.

What did you learn from working with New Haven youths?

The children really bonded to the other kids at their sites and formed strong relationships with their counselors. I was fortunate to learn from the children and am excited about the tremendous potential for the future of the city as these bright, enthusiastic, curious children grow and pursue educational and vocational opportunities in the community.

What did your fellowship teach you that you believe you will find helpful for your future studies at Yale and beyond?

I think this fellowship really required an added level of flexibility and allowed for more creativity. I had to be creative in order to inspire the children to really enjoy and learn from the initiative. I learned to be more reflective and really trust that the process would work out. I was also able to form close relationships with many of the local community agencies and organizations that served as partners for our pilot program. I especially enjoyed my time working with the incredible residents of Church Street South. I hope to continue the strong relationship I built with this community.

The fellowship also pushed me to think deeply about my future education and career. In the medical field, there are so many opportunities to explore. I am thinking more creatively about the opportunities my Yale education affords. There is such potential throughout New Haven, and beyond in other cities, to treat and care for individuals from a variety of backgrounds with such diverse histories.

How did New Haven residents respond to the program?

It amazed me how receptive the community was to the idea. People not only graciously listened to our plan but were genuinely excited about having the program in their community. We got important suggestions on how to improve and expand the program along the way. Each group really gave me a sense of the true spirit of the city of New Haven and helped me understand how important the younger generation is to residents of New Haven. They are proud of their city and want youths who live here to be proud as well.

250,000 hours of service and counting: President’s Public Service Fellows

Over 700 Yale undergraduate, graduate and professionals have provided more than 250,000 hours of service to New Haven groups since the Yale President’s Public Service Fellowships began in 1994, according to Karen King, director of the program, and community affairs associate in the Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

New Haven’s Common Ground High School has hosted a number of President’s Public Service Fellows over the years., (Photo by Michael Marsland)

One of the most important benefits for President’s Public Service Fellows, notes King, is the chance to learn about New Haven in depth while gaining first-hand knowledge of the challenges that the city’s community organizations face.

The fellowship educates participants through an extensive orientation program and a comprehensive summer support program that includes weekly dinner meetings. They also have the opportunity to learn from guest speakers and from one another about the City of New Haven, its sociopolitical and economic structures, and its robust non-profit and public sectors.

“We will continue to do what we’ve done best: Place highly talented, motivated, and energetic Yale students with non-profit and public sector institutions that serve the residents of our wonderful hometown,” King added.

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