Five tales of summer in the city by Yale President’s Public Service Fellows

This summer, 32 undergraduate and graduate/professional students stayed in New Haven as part of the Yale President’s Public Service Fellowship (PPSF).
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As part of the fellowship, the fellows are treated to a breakfast with President Peter Salovey. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

This summer, 32 undergraduate and graduate/professional students stayed in New Haven as part of the Yale President’s Public Service Fellowship (PPSF).

Established in 1994, the fellowship seeks to connect Yale students with public sector and non-profit organizations throughout New Haven. Their projects range from economic development to neighborhood revitalization. The fellowship provides a stipend to the students, allowing the organizations to receive the help without worrying about financial constraints. Since its founding, the fellowship has been awarded to more than 700 students who have contributed over 200,000 hours of community service to New Haven organizations.

Here, a few students describe their summers as fellows.

Carlotte Finegold ’17 Berkeley College

Junta for Progressive Action

I came into my internship at Junta for Progressive Action expecting to be exposed to the daily operations and challenges of a local non-profit. As I have helped to write grant applications; draft website content; create the organizational newsletter, brochure, and informational video; and photograph important events, I have seen that non-profit work can sometimes be frustrating and thankless. However, I spend most of my time amazed by the zeal of Junta’s staff, the stories of Junta’s clients, and the impact Junta makes on Fair Haven and the greater New Haven community.

Photo during a Junta Youth Leadership group event commemorating victims of youth violence. (Photo by Charlottle Finegold)

I have seen how Junta’s programs propel undocumented residents to higher-paying jobs and higher education; train teens to share their experiences with race, violence, and poverty; and help families improve their economic situation. I have photographed adults from more than 10 countries celebrating their graduation with their English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, ESL students picking lettuce from Junta’s organic vegetable garden to take back to their families, high school students discussing immigration policy, and kids enjoying their first-ever sleep-away summer camp. I have learned more about the experiences of undocumented residents by interviewing young people who have been denied driver’s licenses, jobs, educational opportunities, and insurance because of their documentation status. I’ve learned about the difficult, rewarding work of uniting and empowering diverse communities.

Yanbo Li ’16 Morse College

Beulah Land Development Corporation

This summer I have been working at Beulah Land Development Corporation, a faith-based community developer working in the Dixwell-Newhallville area. It is a very small operation, with only two other people (including my supervisor) working full-time, which comes with both ups and downs. On the one hand, they lacked the infrastructure to give me a very specific project or assignment for the summer; so instead, I helped them with a myriad of tasks. On the other hand, I was able to develop a close relationship with the director of operations and be a part of the visionary process and direction of the non-profit. I participated in meetings with city and state officials, conducted research for grant applications, and acted as my supervisor’s eyes and ears on a construction site.

What has really struck me about working here this summer is how small our city is. And consequently, how easy it is to make a difference if you only take the time to understand who’s who and how the system works. And because of that, we have a responsibility as intelligent and capable young people to be engaged with the city.

Solomon Oak ’17 Berkeley

New Haven Promise

New Haven Promise is a non-profit organization that aims to revitalize the city by making college more affordable for high-achieving New Haven Public School students and providing employment training and opportunities.

PPSF fellow Solomon Oak answering questions/interacting with parents and visitors at the City Transformation Expo on behalf of New Haven Promise. (Photo courtesy of Solomon Oak)

In December of 2014, New Haven Promise made a commitment — at a White House summit to increase college-readiness and success for K-12 students — to deepen local parental engagement in education.

As part of the parent engagement plan, I developed the Parent Pathways to Promise. This program follows the structure of the Parent Toolkit, which outlines steps parents can take to help their students to move toward college readiness and resources to support taking those steps.

The Parent Pathways to Promise presents monthly themes of helping students be college-ready from kindergarten through college in a more practical calendar format. In addition to the monthly themes, the Parent Pathways to Promise features snapshots of key New Haven Promise events, and local resources to help families achieve college-readiness. Resources that have been deemed to be outdated on the previous Parent Toolkit have been updated with practical and affordable resources. Important deadlines and events have been highlighted so more parents and students can take advantage of great resources and programs available in New Haven. These Parent Pathways to Promise calendars can provide parents with the tools and resources needed to help their students be successful and eventually qualify for a New Haven Promise Scholarship.

As I interacted with parents and scholars of New Haven, I felt the need to fix the unequal opportunity for higher education. Talking with parents who yearned to ensure the opportunity for higher education for their students made me appreciate New Haven Promise even more. As one parent said, “I believe that New Haven Promise is the key to the future of the city.” New Haven Promise revitalizes our city by making the pursuit of higher education and career a reality for students of New Haven.

Hyelim Park (Esther), School of Nursing

Fair Haven Community Health Center

My past summer has been a life-changing experience as a Yale President’s Public Service Fellow at Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC). My experience has varied from workflow analysis, improving patient experience through recommendations, and becoming a credentialed EPIC trainer [Editor’s note: EPIC is a patient care database]. I never thought I would be able to make such a difference in the community where I merely attended school and see the positive effects of the change right in front of my eyes.

PPSF fellow Hyelim Park (center) with the nursing leadership team. (Photo courtesy of Hyelim Park)

During the weeklong PPSF orientation held before I even began this journey, I was able to not only mingle with my new fellow friends, but the mayor herself and explore New Haven in ways I could not possibly imagine. Throughout the PPSF Fellowship, nursing leadership and the employees at FHCHC have become my second family and the Greater New Haven Area has become my home away from home. I never imagined I’d be walking away from this fellowship with a new set of friends, and a new sense of community in New Haven, which I can now refer to as my home.

Ryan Mera-Evans, ’17 Ezra Stiles

Urban Resources Initiative

When we think about the word “forest,” what comes to mind? For me, the word summons primeval woods, tree trunks thicker than torsos, winding dirt paths to hidden grottos, bubbling creeks, butterflies, worms, earth. It’s the standard, Hans-Christian Anderson imaginary fairy-tale. This summer, my understanding of the word “forest” was destabilized and denaturalized. Through my work with the Urban Resources Initiative (URI), I came to understand, more deeply than ever before, the extent to which capital, labor, communication, political power, and urban planning are connected to the plants we see around us.

PPSF fellow Ryan Mera-Evans (top center) with children from the Boys and Girls Club. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Mera-Evans)

Theory aside, I dug a lot of holes, and drove big honkin’ trucks around New Haven. While I did landscaping and tree planting across the entire city, the site where I grew the most at was the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven. URI’s partnership (and, resultantly, my work with) the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven and the Lulac Head Start Center formed out of a relationship made between two PPSF fellows in the summer of 2014.

At the beginning of the season, I worked with Natasha Huang, another 2015 PPSF fellow, to formulate a plan and vision for students at the Boys and Girls Club to learn about plants through planting. For five weeks, I brought perennials, tools, compost, mulch, and trees to the club, and was able to guide 40 kids in proper planting and stewardship practices. The most exciting part of the work was the concretization and actualization of a community partnership with the Lulac Head Start Learning Center that will hopefully lead to several robust years of youth-driven tree plantings around their property. Before our plantings Lulac’s property was, by most textbook definitions, a “heat island.” The combination of asphalt, a lack of tree shade, and all-day sun turned the space into a griddle: as soon as you stepped onto their property, the ambient temperature increased by about 10 degrees. The center serves mostly women and young children, and the severe lack of shade raised serious concerns for public health. With the help of folks from Lulac, we identified the site’s potential for long-term environmental education and benefit. As a result, we planted shade trees that would provide substantial tree canopy at maturity while also providing year-round interest and materials for nature/art projects.

During the final two weeks of the season, a crew of 10 kids from the Boys and Girls Club planted trees alongside the fathers of Lulac preschoolers. This year, we planted a White Oak (Connecticut’s state tree!), a Littleleaf Linden, and a Red Sunset Red Maple Tree (leaves! color!). We additionally planted a small flower garden in front of a window some of the preschoolers regularly look out of, so that images of bumblebees and butterflies float through their early childhood memories rather than a litany of cars and asphalt.

The full list of the 2015 Fellows and their placements can be found below.

Jane Adkins, Nursing 2016

Solar Youth — summer educator

Angel Aquino, Divinity 2016

SCHOLAR: overnight program coordinator

Lena Bae, Law 2017

Yale Law School — Ludwig Center for Community & Economic Development

Duane Bean, Berkeley 2017

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven

Tamara Briner, Nursing 2016

All Our Kin

Beau Brown, Divinity 2016

Creating Kids at the Connecticut Children’s Museum

Leah Chasm-Velasco, Nursing 2016

SCHOLAR: day program coordinator

George Chochos, Divinity 2016

Believe In Me Empowerment Corporation

Yagil Eliraz, Drama 2016

Yale School of Drama’s The Dwight/Edgewood Project

Charlotte Finegold, Berkeley 2017

Junta for Progressive Action

Whitney Fu, Medicine 2018

City of New Haven — Community Services Administration: Promise

Julia Hamer-Light, Saybrook 2018


Natasha Huang, Divinity 2016

Boys & Girls Club of New Haven

Katelyn Kang, Morse 2016

New Haven Youth Tennis & Education (New HYTEs)

Joyce Koltisko, Berkeley 2018

Elm Seed Enterprise Fund

Seyoung Lee, Berkeley 2016

City of New Haven — Chief Administrative Office

Amanda Lerner, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences 2018

Eli Whitney Museum

Yanbo Li, Morse 2016

Beulah Land Development Corporation

Adan Martinez, Law 2017

Yale Law School — Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization

Eddie Maza, Ezra Stiles 2018

New Haven Reads

Ryan Mera-Evans, Ezra Stiles 2017

Urban Resources Initiative

Isadora Milanez, Saybrook 2018

Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT)

Jane O’Bryan, Public Health 2016

Community Services Administration: Homelessness to Self-Sufficiency

Solomon Oak, Berkeley 2017

New Haven Promise

Esther Park, Nursing 2016

Fair Haven Community Health Center

Michael Perrin, Public Health 2016

Breakthrough New Haven at Hopkins School

Daniel Pham, Jonathan Edwards 2016

New Haven Ecology Project/Common Ground High School: summer camp teacher

Ariana Shapiro, Branford 2016

New Haven Works

Shivani Shedde, Architecture 2016

City of New Haven — City Plan Department: Waterfront

Isra Syed, Morse 2016

IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services

Matthew Viens, Forestry & Environmental 2016

Urban Resources Initiative

Christie Zhu, Public Health 2016

New Haven Farms

For more information about the PPSF, contact Karen King (

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