This fall’s Yale Day of Service took place on Saturday, October 5. More than a third of the participants were graduate students, who were joined by professional school students, undergraduates, postdocs, faculty, staff, and assorted friends and family members.
Everyone met at HGS in the morning and then went to their designated volunteer sites: the Ronald McDonald House, YMCA, CitySeed, the New Haven Public Library, and more.
Organizers were the McDougal Public Service Fellows Michelle Legaspi (Chemistry) and Ted Schmid (Immunobiology),the GPSS Community Service chair Kristy Gauthier (Public Health), and Jennifer Mendelsohn, associate director of the Office of Graduate Student Life.
“The sites were very impressed by the enthusiasm and hardworking nature of their volunteers, saying that their volunteers went above and beyond expectations,” Michelle reports. “According to the feedback received, many of the volunteers said that they had a wonderful experience and felt that they were making a positive impact on the community. They had fun and learned about new ways to get involved in New Haven. All of us are proud to say that the Yale Day of Service was an incredible success.”
Asu Erden (Immunobiology) was the site captain for the New Haven Science Fair volunteers. “We helped put together folders for family science nights,” she says. “These events raise awareness of, and increase involvement in, learning about science. It felt extremely rewarding to spend a few hours helping such a worthy organization. I’d love to get more involved in volunteering in New Haven.”
“Our group spent several hours cleaning the New Haven Animal Shelter, which allowed me to get a first-hand look at a place I intend to volunteer at regularly,” says Jennifer Carr (French). “If the YDOS can serve as a jumping-off point for larger involvement in the local community, I think that could easily qualify as its greatest success.”
Fang Ren (Engineering and Applied Science) volunteered with the Urban Resources Initiative. She and four others planted a good-sized tupelo tree together, and each of them planted two or three smaller trees. Although the work left her “more tired than I expected to be,” she admits that it was a lot of fun.
“Yale graduate students come from all over the world and from all different backgrounds,” Michelle says. “We have the skills, knowledge, and experience that are really needed in the New Haven community. Many of us will be living here for a long time, and it’s important for us to help alleviate some of the city’s problems.”
Michelle has been committed to volunteer work for years. As a college freshman, she helped found a branch of Camp Kesem at the University of Florida, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Camp Kesem is a week-long overnight camp for children affected by a parent’s cancer. The movement began with a single site at Stanford University and has grown to 54 active chapters in 27 states. College students organize the logistics, recruit the campers and counselors, and raise money. Campers attend for free. They get a break from the stress of living with a sick parent and the chance to interact with kids who understand what they are going through.
“Being a part of Camp Kesem was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had,” Michelle says. This summer, Yale will launch its own Camp Kesem — one of twelve schools to receive funding from the LIVESTRONG Foundation, which has pledged $120,000 to the project. Because of her work in Florida, she will be on the advisory board for Yale’s camp.