Spring Break New Haven deepens students’ understanding of the city around them

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Participants in Spring Break New Haven visited different neighborhoods in the city and met with local leaders. (Photo by Candice Provey)

Many Yale students used the March spring break to rest and recharge, visit family, conduct research, and engage in service projects overseas. One cohort of students, however, remained in town the week of March 13 to participate in Spring Break New Haven, an initiative of the Office of the Chaplain. The program’s purpose is to help Yale students explore the city they inhabit and consider what it means to call New Haven home.

The week-long immersion provided a broad introduction to New Haven through service and conversation with neighbors in non-profit organizations, religious communities, and the local art scene. The program has been organized for the last five years by the Rev. Candice Provey, associate university chaplain, and is open to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Students of any or no religious tradition are welcome to participate.

Each day the group of 18 undergraduates and two Divinity School student facilitators visited a different neighborhood of the city, then gathered in the evenings at the Chaplain’s Office for dinner and reflection on the intersections between their own lives and those of their neighbors.

Students explored the Town Green, City Hall, and East Rock, and the Fair Haven, Westville, Ninth Square, and Long Wharf districts. An important aspect of the program was engagement with New Haven religious leaders and community organizers, including the Rev. Bonita Grubbs DIV ’84, M.P.H. ’85, executive director of Christian Community Action; Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel; Fair Haven community organizer Lee Cruz; Baobab Tree Studios head the Rev. Kevin “RevKev” Ewing DIV ’07; and affordable housing advocates at New Reach.

Undergraduate Topiltzin Gomez Juarez ’19 said the encounters with community leaders were a key part of the program. “Lee Cruz, who gave us a tour of Fair Haven, made me reflect on the ways that I hope to serve my community as I grow older and settle down in a particular place. His tour left me with a renewed sense of both obligation and optimism.”

Gomez Juarez said he also appreciated “the intentionality with which we approached the complex issues of the town-gown divide. We constantly thought about how service is important but also complicated especially with the racial, spatial, and economic dynamics at play. I am glad Spring Break New Haven could make us think about what it means to serve and to belong.”

Spring Break New Haven is supported by University Chaplain’s Office, McDougal Graduate Student Life, the Office of New Haven & State Affairs, and the Office of International Students & Scholars.

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