Elm and Ivy: A celebration

Yale and New Haven leaders yesterday bestowed Seton Elm-Ivy Awards on eight people and organizations strengthening the ties between the university and city.
Peter Salovey and Justin Elicker

Yale President Peter Salovey and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. (Photo by Dan Renzetti)

A Yale faculty member who recently created a job training program that makes biotech jobs accessible to non-college educated residents in New Haven and a community organization that offers a summer enrichment program to local schoolchildren were among the eight recipients of the 2023 Seton Elm-Ivy Awards.

The awards, which are given annually, honor outstanding efforts by individuals, organizations, or programs that enhance the lives of Elm City residents and nourish the partnership between Yale and its host city. Elm Awards honor individuals from the broader New Haven community, while the Ivy Awards are given to Yale staff members, faculty, or students.

This year’s recipients were honored during a ceremony April 4 at the Yale Schwarzman Center. Awards were presented by Yale President Peter Salovey and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.

Recipients of Elm Awards were the East Rock Afterschool program, a collaboration between local teachers and Yale student tutors that serves New Haven public school students; Gladys Mwilelo, program manager for the IRIS Afterschool Program; and the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, an independent summer academic program run by Yale and New Haven community members.

Ivy Awards went to Craig Crews, the John C. Malone Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and creator of the job training program BioLaunch; Public Humanities at Yale, which has introduced a series of projects that connect the Yale community with New Haven residents; Heather Dawn Reynolds, a nurse-midwife and lecturer at Yale School of Nursing who for decades has provided care and addressed health inequities in the New Haven community; Josephine Steuer Ingall ’24, a Yale College student who has helped address food insecurity in the city (who received the Undergraduate Ivy Award); and Open Labs, a graduate student organization that works with local students and families to inspire an interest in science (recipient of the Graduate and Professional Student Ivy Award).

The Seton Elm-Ivy Awards were established in 1979 through the inspiration and support of Fenmore Seton ’38 and Phyllis Seton, who established an endowment at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to support the awards ceremony. The first Elm and Ivy Awardees were named in 1980.

As we mark this 41st celebration of the Seton Elm-Ivy Awards, we celebrate organizations and individuals who work tirelessly to contribute to a strong New Haven by strengthening the relationship with Yale and New Haven,” said Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven Affairs and University Properties.

This year’s recipients, through their passion and leadership, help build a healthier and safer community, foster inclusive economic development and local job creation, and inspire and educate our youth. As a result, today, New Haven and Yale stand out for the size, duration, and success of that partnership, including the most supportive fiscal relationship, and a longstanding community investment program by Yale. Our partnership is well-established, long-rooted, and growing every day —  yielding real results for New Haven residents.”

The citations for this year’s winners follow:

East Rock Afterschool Program, Elm Award

Visit the East Rock Community and Cultural Studies Magnet School any day of the week after school and you will see Yale students teaching chess, coaching sports, making art, helping with homework, and working with East Rock Students on stories for their school newspaper. What you may not know is that the Yale students in the building have all been trained in the school’s math intervention program. These students are participating in the East Rock Afterschool Program, the brainchild of two New Haven educators: Principal Sabrina Breland and Math Coach Ron Coleman.

Sabrina was born and raised in New Haven and was well known as a high school basketball player. She returned to New Haven after college where she now ‘coaches’ teachers, classroom assistants, parents, Yale students — essentially anyone who can help New Haven public school students become the best they can be. Sabrina knows that nothing succeeds without teamwork. As the principal of the East Rock Community Magnet School, her most recent and perhaps best ‘draft pick’ was Ron Coleman. 

Ron, also a New Havener, returned to New Haven after college with Teach for America (TFA), where he taught math in the New Haven Schools, staying on well beyond the two-year TFA requirement. Currently the math coach at East Rock School, Ron helped to launch and now directs the free afterschool program for its students. Ron has recruited and trained countless Yale students, who are fully integrated in the program to assist teachers with math and reading tutoring, and to mentor East Rock students during enrichment activities.

For creating a program that brings together the talents of local teachers and Yale student tutors in service of New Haven public school students, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Justin Elicker present East Rock Magnet School’s Afterschool Program leaders Principal Sabrina Breland and Ronald Coleman with an Elm Award.”

Gladys Mwilelo, Elm Award

On the very first day that Gladys Mwilelo arrived in New Haven in 2013 as a 13-year-old refugee, the Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) became her home. Gladys took the initiative to be in service to the organization that had welcomed her and her family to New Haven. For nearly a decade, she served in a variety of roles, working her way up to program manager for the IRIS Afterschool Program (IAS). In this role, Gladys has been creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for the 50 refugee youths enrolled in IAS. Four afternoons a week, Yale students serve as mentors and tutors, helping IAS youth with homework one-on-one or in small groups. Enrichment sessions follow and are led by Yale University organizations including EMPOWER, a Yale-based social emotional wellness program for refugee families, as well as Yale CityStep, whose Yale student volunteers teach a curriculum of creativity and collaboration through dance.

During the pandemic, Gladys ensured that IAS remained a place where youth could continue to build community, be guided by mentors, and fall in love with learning. The partnerships she created with Yale volunteers helped make the Zoom classrooms magical for both instructors and students, an unforgettable feat during a very difficult time. Gladys inspired Yale volunteers to continue to create high-quality classes that made the most of these virtual sessions. IAS students and Yale volunteers alike valued this online outlet, which made it possible for children, families, and volunteers to create a sense of shared community during a period of incredible isolation.

The IRIS Afterschool Program transitioned into fully in-person programming this year, in which student and volunteer energy and excitement is fueled by Gladys’ abundant passion and infectious joy. Gladys is a strong role model who is absolutely beloved by volunteers, staff, and kids and their families. For inspiring children and volunteers to seek and share the beauty of learning each day, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Justin Elicker present Gladys Mwilelo with an Elm Award.”

Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, Elm Award

If you were to visit Old Campus this summer you might be surprised to find it full of adolescents. These students are part of Ulysses S. Grant, an independent six-week summer academic enrichment program that hosts 70-90 rising sixth- to ninth-graders from New Haven’s public and parochial schools every year.

Founded by Yale students in 1953 and celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation is led by a board of directors that is made up of Yale and New Haven community members. It perpetuates its strong legacy by offering a transformative summer academic experience for both New Haven and Yale students. U.S. Grant offers intellectual challenges and opportunities to New Haven students who benefit from the exciting academic coursework, important and sustained relationships with college students, and exposure to the world of higher education. And since its inception, U.S. Grant has drawn on the experience and enthusiasm of Yale students to serve as teachers who design and instruct interdisciplinary core classes and electives. Their involvement in the program forges a deeper commitment to public service while inspiring a new generation of scholars.

For bringing together Yale University and New Haven students to share their love of learning every summer, President Peter Salovey and Mayor Justin Elicker present the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation with an Elm Award.”

Craig Crews, Ivy Award

Dr. Craig Crews has been part of the Yale faculty since 1995, holding joint appointments in the departments of Chemistry and Pharmacology. A brilliant scientist, teacher, and mentor, Craig’s laboratory pioneered the field of targeted protein degradation. Driven by a desire to see his research translated for societal benefit, Craig has founded companies that develop novel therapies to combat cancer and other serious diseases. His three most recent companies, Arvinas, Halda Therapeutics, and Siduma Therapeutics, are all intentionally located in New Haven. This is a testament to Craig’s insistence and passion to strengthen New Haven and its bioscience ecosystem. His commitment to New Haven has created significant local employment opportunities and contributed to the development of new commercial lab space in New Haven, including 101 College Street. 

For most people, teaching, building companies, and innovating groundbreaking therapies would leave little extra time for other pursuits. Craig, however, continues to innovate and launch new programs with the aim of giving back to New Haven. Most recently, Craig spearheaded the creation of BioLaunch, a new job training program to help historically underserved, non-college educated New Haven residents obtain the necessary training to earn well-paying jobs in the local biotech industry. In partnership with the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCat), BioLaunch will accept 15 candidates per cohort for a four-month training program, which is expected to end with a paid industrial internship with local biopharma labs. Each trainee receives a monthly stipend and support services such as childcare and transportation are included.

For his steadfast commitment to grow and build ventures in New Haven, strengthen New Haven as a bioscience hub, while simultaneously creating job opportunities for New Haven residents at all levels of the ecosystem, Mayor Justin Elicker and President Peter Salovey present Dr. Craig Crews with an Ivy Award.”

Public Humanities at Yale, Ivy Award

The Public Humanities at Yale program was created over 15 years ago with the goal to share and create scholarship amongst broader audiences. Under the current leadership of Matt Jacobson and Karin Roffman, this program has expanded the academic discourse beyond the confines of the classroom, academic publishing, and the academic conference circuit to the New Haven community. Members of the Yale community participating in the program connect with New Haven residents through projects that run the gamut from oral history projects, to museum exhibitions, to podcasts.

The core of the Public Humanities Program is its mission to provide venues for non-academic expertise, creating conversations that might not otherwise occur. A shining example of this is its series of monthly presentations and civic discussions in collaboration with the New Haven Free Public Library. The program, called Democracy in America, was launched in 2017 and invites New Haven neighbors together to reflect upon the state of American democracy today. Originally hosted at the library, it quickly pivoted to virtual discussions during the pandemic which allowed an even greater local audience to participate. Throughout the years, a community has cohered around these events, and they demonstrate a widespread desire to have a forum to discuss these issues.

Public Humanities at Yale also organizes the Urban Life Experience Book Discussion Series, presented in collaboration with the New Haven Free Public Library. Hosted monthly at a local library branch, participants regularly meet to discuss books focusing on African American history and social justice issues. The Public Humanities Program purchases copies of the books, which are then dispersed throughout the five branches of the New Haven Free Public Library, providing access to everyone who has a library card.

For creating new conversations and cultivating new relationships between members of the Yale and New Haven communities, Mayor Justin Elicker and President Peter Salovey present Yale’s Public Humanities Program, led by Matthew Jacobson and Karin Roffman, with an Ivy Award.”

Heather Dawn Reynolds, Ivy Award

Midwifery has its origins in community health nursing. Nevertheless, owing to the realities of clinical practice, work often is confined within the walls of healthcare settings. For many decades, however, Heather Reynolds has had a vision that extends beyond the boundaries of clinics and hospitals, as she has engaged directly with the New Haven community to address health inequities and provide care for those in need.

Heather is a Yale nurse-midwife who, for over 30 years, has cared for generations of patients in the New Haven community and has educated generations of Yale students who have become clinicians and leaders. Everyone seems to know Heather Reynolds: she is widely respected and deeply trusted by patients, by colleagues, and by the New Haven community for her work as well as the passion and integrity which infuse it.

While teaching full time and being in full-scope clinical practice, Heather also finds time to volunteer on quite a few local boards. She served as commissioner of the Board of Health for the City of New Haven and as a member of several New Haven Board of Health committees and panels related to reducing infant mortality. She has partnered in many different capacities with the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and served as an advisor to the Fair Haven Community Health Center’s pediatric project, Parents and Children together. Heather has actively engaged in a variety of other local health innovations, such as providing prenatal education to teens at the former Polly McCabe Center and introducing the group prenatal care model for pregnant adolescents at Yale New Haven Hospital. 

For her commitment to community, public health, and equity, and for establishing a legacy of volunteering tirelessly to build coalitions to improve the health of parents and children in the New Haven community, Mayor Justin Elicker and President Peter Salovey present Heather Dawn Reynolds with an Ivy Award.”

Josephine Steuer Ingall ’24, Undergraduate Ivy Award

Community refrigerators, in Josephine Steuer Ingall’s words, act as a ‘grassroots response to the food insecurity crisis.’ They are especially critical in neighborhoods where individuals without cars may not be able to reach food banks. On any given day, the Dwight Community Fridge, located at the YMCA Daycare Center on Howe Street, is full of fresh produce, prepared meals, water, frozen foods, baked goods, eggs, bread, snacks, toilet paper, soap, sponges, menstrual products and more, due to the generous donations made by Yale students and community members. Josie oversees this fridge and ensures that it remains properly stocked at all times. The location was selected to be easily accessible to the community and to allow Yale students living off campus to readily contribute.

The fridge follows the general principle of ‘take what you need, leave what you don’t’ and Josie supplements the offerings by securing donations from the Yale Farm, currently the fridge’s main donor, to ensure that there will always be nourishment for residents who make regular trips. Josie is hoping to add more packaged goods and ready-to-go individually portioned meals that would be more convenient to those in need. She continues to rally support from hundreds of Yale affiliates and New Haven residents who are looking to make a tangible impact on food insecurity in New Haven.

For coordinating efforts to bring food to those in need and encouraging Yale students and New Haven residents to actively support our shared community, Mayor Justin Elicker and President Peter Salovey present Josephine Steuer Ingall with an Undergraduate Ivy Award.”

Open Labs, Graduate and Professional Student Ivy Award

The graduate student leaders of Yale Open Labs have made it their mission to inspire the next generation of scientists, bringing local students and families together in a variety of ways to showcase the frontiers of science at Yale. Since 2014, Open Labs has hosted Science Cafes each semester, where New Haven students engage in fun, interactive science demonstrations and listen to a set of concise and highly engaging science talks. Parents, grandparents, sisters, and brothers all take part in conversations with Yale scientists following the talks — discussing astronomy over a cup of hot cocoa or examining the importance of the microbiome while they snack on cookies. The Open Labs crew works tirelessly to ensure that the Science Cafe events are comfortable and engaging, providing step-by-step support to Yale graduate student volunteers as they develop their content and hone their science communication skills.

Open Labs expanded in 2017 to include even more unique ways of giving the gift of science to local students. They co-founded Yale Science Haven, collaborating with local community organizations to bring their science demonstrations on the road to New Haven churches, fairs, parks, and summer events. They also began hosting the annual Flipped Science Fair, which literally flips the traditional science fair on its head by inviting New Haven middle school students to learn about cutting-edge science research at Yale by evaluating Yale graduate student science fair projects.  

During the pandemic, instead of curtailing interacting with New Haven families, Josie and Lam’s team made a bold move — to host Exploring Science weekly. From April 2020 to May 2021, Open Labs hosted 49 Exploring Science sessions on Zoom, drawing anywhere from 80 to 160 local students each week. 

Each year, Open Labs serves thousands of local New Haven students, and Yale graduate student leaders like Josie [Jayworth] and Lam [Vo] have made this happen. For continuously inspiring and engaging with local youth to encourage science exploration, Mayor Justin Elicker and President Peter Salovey present Open Labs with the Graduate and Professional Student Ivy Award.”

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