Serving and Working in Our Communities

August 14, 2018

When I was in college, summer was never a vacation but instead a time to find a job and add to my “college fund.” Although my summer employment history was a bit unusual—in various years, I worked as an electrician’s apprentice, a cook in a Mexican restaurant, a truck driver for a vacuum pump repair shop, a pay-and-file clerk at a bank, and a research assistant in a psychology laboratory—I rely, even today, on some of the life skills learned in those positions.

For most Yale students, summer recess is a welcome respite from the rigor of classes, essays, and lab reports. But for many, it is also less a vacation than a chance to do different kinds of work. Many students remain in New Haven and volunteer through one of Yale’s service organizations. Others explore new work opportunities through internships.

This year, twenty-seven President’s Public Service Fellows are volunteering in a wide variety of community organizations. Established in 1994, the fellowship is a tremendous opportunity for Yale College, graduate, and professional school students to immerse themselves in the work of a New Haven organization. This year’s fellows are working for the City of New Haven, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, and legal, housing, and youth programs, among others. Fellows learn new skills and contribute their talents to a local organization. 

An important aspect of the President’s Public Service Fellowship is strengthening the connections between Yale students and our home city. Each Tuesday night, the fellows gather for dinner with a leader from a local group. Speakers are people who live and work in New Haven, and they share their areas of expertise. These conversations help expand fellows’ understanding of the city’s strengths and challenges.

Last year, Shancia Jarrett, a second-year master’s student at the Yale Divinity School, was selected as a Presidential Public Service Fellow. As an intern for New Haven Works, an economic relief and workforce development nonprofit agency created in partnership with the State of Connecticut, the City of New Haven, and Yale, Shancia spent ten weeks working with other employees, job coaches, and job seekers. This year, Shancia is serving as a coordinator with the Presidential Public Service Fellowship. 

Yale students engage in service projects all year long. Each year, two-thirds of our undergraduates engage in community service activities through Dwight Hall, our campus community service organization founded in 1886. Their work adds up to more than 150,000 hours committed to local projects and organizations.   

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Dwight Hall Summer Fellows program—an opportunity for students to work full-time for eight weeks with a New Haven community organization. Since 1968, nearly 700 Yale University students have spent their summers in New Haven seeking to learn and contribute to our city. Current Dwight Hall Summer Fellows are working with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Lawyers Without Borders, CitySeed, the Yale Prison Education Initiative, and others. Fellows live on campus, gather for weekly dinners with community leaders, and reflect on their experiences in writing. 

Beyond our campus, students are working in a diverse array of organizations, learning new skills and encountering a variety of perspectives. A new summer fellowship supports students on financial aid so they can participate in unpaid internships in the nonprofit, government, and arts sectors. This summer, nearly 200 Yale College students were able to accept positions at 179 different organizations thanks to this funding.

A commitment to public service connects Yalies across generations. The Yale Alumni Community Service Fellowship is another way students can spend their summers learning and making valuable contributions to nonprofit organizations. With the support of Yale Alumni Clubs, this program places students in paid eight-week community service internships throughout the United States. 

Jobs and volunteer opportunities enrich a Yale education—opening minds to new experiences and different possibilities. I am proud of the way our students and alumni work and serve in their communities, during the summer and all year long.