Dwight Hall Externships Forge New Relationships between Students and Community Partners over Spring Recess

Dwight Hall’s Student Executive Committee (ExComm) launched an Externship program during Yale’s 2024 spring recess, matching students interested in service with community organizations across New Haven. According to ExComm members Rena Liu ’26 and Allie Lopez ’27, the program was inspired by a similar initiative led by Yale’s Asian American Cultural Center, which pairs interested students with Asian American community organizations. Students spend their spring breaks volunteering at their matched organizations. The program assists organizations with the initiatives they assign their volunteers, introduces students to new service opportunities, and has the potential to foster long-lasting relationships between volunteers and community partners.

The Dwight Hall Externship program combines this purpose with Dwight Hall’s commitment to advancing service and justice in New Haven. “Yale students hoping to explore public interest careers often lack recruiting opportunities and pre-professional mentorship,” Rena and Allie wrote in a joint statement explaining their motivation for organizing the program. “Furthermore, students hoping to explore any career should understand how their careers can promote social good in collaboration with nonprofits and community organizers. Finally, all Yale students should work to support more equitable relationships between Yale and New Haven.”

2024 Externs were placed into two-week internships with a wide variety of New Haven organizations including New Reach, DataHaven, Havenly, Clifford Beers Community Care Center, the Yale Prison Education Initiative at Dwight Hall (YPEI), and Dwight Hall. The Externs also participated in group volunteer activities, met with guest speakers, and bonded as members of the externship community, hosting daily group dinners. 

Hadi Mahdeyan ’27 decided to apply for the program as a way to deepen his relationship with New Haven. “I hoped to get to know New Haven as a city in its own right, rather than merely as Yale’s New Haven,” Hadi explained.

Through his placement with YPEI, Hadi supported the work of YPEI and connected with mentors he would not have met otherwise. “The highlight [of the Externship] has been meeting so many cool and interesting people,” Hadi explained. For example, he was inspired by Hector, a YPEI College-to-Career Fellow, artist, and alum of the Bard Prison Initiative, who he praises as “fantastic in what he does, whether it’s his art or his mission of abolishing prisons as places of punishment.”

Another important relationship he forged was with Emme Magliato ’23, Program Assistant at YPEI. “I truly admire her passion for her work in the community, her compassion for people, and how respectful and understanding she is,” Hadi said.

Likewise, Emme appreciated Hadi’s hard work throughout the program. “As an Extern, Hadi has contributed so meaningfully to YPEI in just a short, two-week span,” she said. “He has both inventoried hundreds of books into an organized YPEI library collection and directly supported students by compiling academic resources for their upcoming assignments through the YPEI Research Request Network. Without internet access, incarcerated students rely on these resources to participate in a rigorous college program. Because of Hadi’s work, our students have improved access to the materials that make college learning possible.”

Ashyah Galbokke Hewage ’27, another Dwight Hall Extern, spent her time at Clifford Beers Community Care Center, an organization that provides trauma-informed mental health care to children, adolescents, and adults in the greater New Haven area. Sarah Miller ’03, Ashyah’s supervisor and Strategy Director at Clifford Beers, praised her work in supporting the organization. “Ashyah helped us undertake an important research project that we most likely would not have been able to prioritize otherwise,” she said.

In total, the Dwight Hall Externs contributed over 250 hours of work supporting community partners across the city. The mission of the program, however, is far from over. Dwight Hall’s ExComm hopes the program was not merely a two-week experience, but the beginning of long-lasting and meaningful connections between Externs and their placement sites. 

The Dwight Hall Externship program exemplifies the Engage pillar of Dwight Hall’s Engage, Grow, Advance program delivery model, forging meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships between Yale students and New Haven community partners.

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