While some Yale students spent the last week of summer packing for their trek to campus, an energetic group of 83 undergraduates spent that time volunteering at New Haven community organizations and learning more about the city.
As part of the student-designed "FOCUS on New Haven" program, held Aug. 23-29 this year, the 65 sophomores and 18 upperclass leaders helped clean up Edgewood Park, paint rooms at a homeless shelter in the Hill neighborhood, create murals at Martin Luther King Elementary School, build compost bins and plant trees in community gardens, construct a Habitat for Humanity home, and interact with residents in a senior citizens home, among other activities.
In the evenings after working at the community sites, the students learned more about New Haven, its history, assets and problems. They listened to speakers, took part in issue-oriented panel discussions, toured the city by bus and -- in a program developed by recent graduate Meir Leiken -- even experienced first- hand some of the obstacles encountered by people who are homeless. To save costs, the students lived in campus housing during the program and cooked their own meals at Trinity Lutheran Church, corner of Wall and Orange streets,.where the educational sessions were held.
"FOCUS is a great opportunity for students who have attended Yale for a year to expand their vision of New Haven," says Matthew Gubens, one of the program's leaders. "Students are encouraged to become involved in New Haven and to develop a non-Yale-centric view of the city. Although FOCUS itself lasts only a week, many Sparticipants continue their community work throughout the year."
Now in its sixth year, FOCUS on New Haven is made possible by grants from Dwight Hall, a volunteer clearing house affiliated with the University, and the Yale Office of New Haven Affairs, a division of the Office of the Secretary.