President’s Public Service Fellows Reflect on Service to Local Nonprofits
For more than 20 years, the University’s President’s Public Service Fellowship has enabled students to serve the Greater New Haven community while developing their leadership skills. Several of this summer’s fellows reflect on their experiences in the program and how it impacted them.
October 6, 2021
By Briana Hojo ’23, Dayana Solano ’22, and Momona Harada ’23
This summer, seven students volunteered with local nonprofit organizations as part of the University’s President’s Public Service Fellowship. They gained work experience and learned about the importance of service and community engagement.
The program has been generously supported by the Bartels family, including Henry ’91 Hon. and Nancy Bartels ’11 Hon., and their son Phil Bartels ’11 Hon., a member of the University's Board of Governors and a former chair, and his wife, Susan. More than 200 students have been involved with the program during its more than 20-year history.
The program enables students to learn about the role of nonprofit organizations in the community while gaining important leadership experience. It fosters positive relationships between the University and the greater West Haven and New Haven communities. At the conclusion of the program, students shared their experience with the University community.
Briana Hojo ’23
Working at the West Haven Mayor’s Office as a President’s Public Service Fellow was not only a unique experience that allowed me to learn more about West Haven and become more involved in the community, but it was also an experience that gave me the opportunity to meet an amazing group of people that I feel privileged to have worked with over the summer.
Many of the projects I worked on ranged from helping to plan and coordinate city events to collaborating with other departments in City Hall to compile research on various topics, including city-owned properties that could potentially be sold to adjoining property owners. I also assisted the Mayor’s Office with day-to-day operations, such as answering the phones and directing residents to proper city resources.
Everyone in the Mayor’s Office and City Hall was always willing to take the time to teach me something new, while ensuring that I made the most out of my Fellowship experience.
The program also gave me the chance to travel to new places within the Greater New Haven area, which allowed me to become more comfortable and knowledgeable of the area, while enabling us as a Fellowship group to grow closer together.
Participating in this program was a rewarding experience that gave me the opportunity to grow on both a personal and professional level. I couldn’t have asked for a better site or Fellowship group to have been a part of this summer.
Dayana Solano ’22
Being selected to be a President’s Public Service Fellow for the Summer of 2021 was something I was excited about, especially when I found out I was going to spend it working with Y2Y New Haven. Y2Y New Haven is an extension of Y2Y Harvard Square in the Greater Boston area. It is the nation’s first youth-led youth (ages 18-24) homeless shelter. It was created by young adults from the community who saw a need in the Greater New Haven area for youth-specific services for those experiencing homelessness.
As a person unfamiliar with the topic of youth homelessness, I learned a lot about the organization’s youth-to-youth model and how close they work with universities and students to continue their important work and to advocate for ending homelessness.
During my time with Y2Y, I was able to work on multiple projects for the New Haven location, including conducting research and meeting with local community members a part of the Youth Action Board. I can’t fully express how impactful this experience was. The entire professional staff and student staff were mentors to me. They all guided me through projects and areas I was unfamiliar with and made the work environment welcoming and supportive. I was also able to apply multiple competencies the University enables us to build to my experience.
While my fellowship experience may be over, I will be using the skills and knowledge I have developed in the other aspects of my college education and future career aspirations. I thank the professional staff and student staff of Y2Y New Haven for an unforgettable experience this past summer!
Momona Harada ’23
My summer volunteering at CitySeed has made me look at food insecurity in a whole new light. It has taught me how imperative it is to have farmers’ markets on certain blocks. I have witnessed several customers who were so thankful for the organization because they were able to afford fresh and organic food.
I worked with the marketing team and worked on several projects. Not only did I work on projects to help spread awareness of CitySeed’s mission, but I was also able to be at the farmers’ market.
Working with CitySeed has also helped me improve my competency skills. I was able to work on my communication skills with my supervisors, peers, and our partners in the Greater New Haven area. I had the opportunity to speak to customers one-on-one and answer questions they had about CitySeed programs. I will speak up during meetings or in class if I have any concerns, which is something I definitely would not have done before this Fellowship experience.
The best part of the Fellowship is getting to know the other fellows. I made such amazing friends and made memories that I will cherish forever. I have grown so much from a professional standpoint and in a personal way as well.