Established in 1991, FOCUS on New Haven is an end-of-summer, weeklong pre-Camp Yale program designed to challenge rising sophomores and transfer students that introduces them to the city of New Haven and helps them to take a closer look at the city they live in. FOCUS encourages students to step outside of the boundaries of the Yale bubble and explore their place in the greater community.
FOCUS participants, along with their upperclassmen leaders, meet with local leaders and examine controversial issues in a wide breadth of urban issues, including immigration, education, politics, race, economic development, and town-gown relations. They learn about New Haven as a whole, taking part in tours of neighborhoods, discussion panels, and meetings with community leaders. In addition to this general view, FOCUS participants also get to engage directly with individual local non-profit organizations through small group service projects at a local non-profit. Having viewed New Haven from multiple perspectives over the course of the program, FOCUS challenges participants to reflect on their past and future roles in their community, gaining a better sense of both the city in which they live and the role they can play in it.
FOCUS is an excellent opportunity for students who want to expand their knowledge of New Haven and get involved with community service but don’t know where to start. No experience is necessary to attend FOCUS as a rising-sophomore participant or work on FOCUS as an upperclassman leader.
“I participated in FOCUS last year as a participant and so I came back this year as one of the program leaders, and it was really cool to see it from this angle and to be able to help other people get excited about being involved in New Haven and being involved in community action of different kinds. I think it’s really great for people who have probably spent a year or so at the university and know the campus pretty well to see what’s beyond those walls, and I think this is a great way to do it.” – Matt Shafer, Leader
“I’m an incoming transfer student, so it was really nice for me to be able to meet a lot of people, I think that was probably the main thing. It was also great to be able to explore the city a little because as a new student I think it’s going to take long enough for me to figure out the campus, so I don’t know when I would get around to exploring New Haven without this.” – Ilana Strauss, Participant
“Most peer orientation programs are freshman programs so we wanted to make this a program for students who had been here for a year, because a lot of students actually kind of stay in Yale and around campus and don’t really go out into actual New Haven. We thought it was a good program for people who had been here for a year to kind of see how much more there is in comparison to what they’ve seen in their past year. And in terms of the value of FOCUS, I think overall the one thing I reminded everyone to take away is that there’s so much going on in this city and there’s so much that people need help with and so just to give people a taste of that, and then hopefully during the year a lot of the participants will either return to the sites they worked at or find new ones.” – Corey Rapala, Leader
“I’m a transfer student and so even though I’ve gone to school in New Haven my whole life and now I’m transferring back to New Haven, it was really cool to see a new side of New Haven, one that I haven’t seen going to a private high school and now Yale. And it was really cool to interact with kids who I wouldn’t have had any opportunity to interact with outside of FOCUS. It was a good opportunity to do that, to meet younger new friends and new friend who I’ll be classmates with.” – Ryan Healey, Participant
“I think by introducing FOCUS participants to different nonprofits in the area, and especially bringing them on tours of all the neighborhoods in New Haven they really get a greater sense of the community in which they live and the inspiration to keep working with it in the future. “ – Marlena Vasquez, Leader