Students Share Meaningful Experiences as Part of President’s Public Service Fellowship
This summer, six students furthered their understanding of nonprofit organizations, the importance of service, and their connection with the local community. They shared their experiences with the University community, discussing what they learned and how the program helped them grow.
September 20, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Delianne Ayala-Ramos ’24 spent part of her summer connecting with kids and with the local community. In helping to teach children to read, she learned a great deal about herself, her own skills, and about the vibrant and diverse New Haven community.
A member of the University’s President’s Public Service Fellowship, Ayala-Ramos spent part of her summer volunteering with New Haven Reads, a nonprofit organization that endeavors to raise literacy rates in the community. For Ayala-Ramos, being able to serve as a mentor and a source of support for the kids was meaningful, and it taught her about her own ability to make a difference, as well as the importance of resilience.
“As a Latina woman in STEM and the military, I thought I had resilience down,” said Ayala-Ramos, a forensic science major. “With kids, you have to find ways to work with them. At New Haven Reads, we don’t give up on them. I learned to be really resilient because it is so important for the kids.”
‘Helped me grow as a leader’
Ayala-Ramos, one of six students to take part in the program this summer, recently shared her experience with the University community as part of a panel discussion. Nora Augustine ’23 MHA, coordinator of the President’s Public Service Program, moderated the discussion.
The program places students of diverse majors with local nonprofit organizations, creating opportunities for students to connect with the community, make a difference, and, even, possibly leading to employment opportunities. Students also learn about the importance of public service while they gain experience and build their skills. As part of the program, students also spent time getting to know each other outside of their nonprofit work, taking part in team-building activities and enjoying some of what the Greater New Haven area has to offer.
For Ryan Curry ’24, a criminal justice major, his experience working with Christian Community Action (CCA) helped him develop a better understanding of the variety of complex challenges that many people face. His work with the organization focused on women’s services, and he helped individuals find jobs, further their education, and create and update their resumes. He expects the experience will serve him well in his future career in law enforcement.
“It has helped me grow as a leader, since I now have a better understanding of what people are going through,” he explained. “It changed how I thought about those facing homelessness. It helped further my personal growth and helped me to be less judgmental. You never know what someone is going through by looking at them.”
‘It makes us so proud’
The panel discussion enabled students to reflect on their service and share how it impacted them. While Anna Marcotte ’24 was not able to attend the presentation in person because she was studying abroad in England, she discussed her experiences in a video that was shown at the event. She was among the first students from the University to work with the Yale Prison Education Initiative (YPEI).
“This fellowship was a great opportunity to expand my familiarity with the New Haven area and to grow my connections with people outside of the University,” said Marcotte, a forensic science major. “This experience will help me so much in my future.”
Members of the University community - including Philip H. Bartels ’11 Hon. – listened to their presentations and asked questions. Members of the Bartels family have been among the University’s most generous benefactors, and they have long been dedicated supporters of the President’s Public Service Program.
“Four generations of our family are so proud to be involved with and supportive of the University,” said Bartels, a member of the University’s Board of Governors. “For my parents, this was their favorite program they could sponsor. What these students have done makes us so proud, not only as ambassadors for the University, but for their personal development. It’s a lot of hard work and patience to continue with this wonderful work, and it makes us so proud.”
“The Bartels family’s legacy of service is exemplified in our students,” added Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., interim president of the University. “Our fellows learned firsthand about the issues that impact our communities, and they learned firsthand about themselves and about the importance of service.”
‘I want to continue with this work’
Students discussed the skills and competencies they developed throughout the program, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership. For many of them, it impacted how they will approach their careers and, even, their post-graduation plans.
For Ayala-Ramos, the student who worked with New Haven Reads and who hails from Farjado, Puerto Rico, her experience in the program enabled her to gain a better understanding of the New Haven area. Through her work with New Haven Reads, she learned how diverse the community is, and she says she heard her native tongue being spoken, including in conversations about areas in Puerto Rico that she knew well.
“It was a breath of fresh air, and it made me feel like I can find a home in the New Haven area,” said Ayala-Ramos, who will continue her work with New Haven Reads as an assistant for the remainder of the fall semester. “I wasn’t originally thinking of staying in the New Haven area, but now I want to continue with this work.”