Working at Dwight Hall!

You might think of your senior year of college as one in which you let go of (at least a few) your on-campus involvements, rather than sign up for new ones —but at the start of my last year here, I began working with Dwight Hall — Yale’s umbrella organization for public service and social justice in New Haven — as an Urban Fellow. What’s that? Well, essentially, for six to eight hours every week, Yale students work with a New Haven organization that they’re paired with earlier in the academic year, and help them with various projects and operations!

Other students have worked with groups like the Yale Prison Education Initiative, which offers for-credit Yale courses to incarcerated students in Connecticut prisons, and Code Haven, which teaches computer science to New Haven middle schoolers, to name a couple. This past September though, I was paired with EMERGE — an organization that helps formerly incarcerated Connecticut residents integrate back into their families and communities, find employment, and access skills training and educational opportunities!

Dwight Hall, on Old Campus! Photo Credit: Yale News.

Dwight Hall’s logo!

But let’s run it back really quickly. Why’d you apply for something completely new in your last year at Yale? A lot of reasons. Expanding my interests! Finally having more time! Wanting to contribute more directly to New Haven, in some fashion, before I graduated! But to be less vague: when I was taking a couple of English classes last year, my professor at the time (and now, my Theater Studies thesis advisor!) mentioned that she taught some college courses at the MacDougall-Walker facility in Connecticut.

So, being interested in the overlap between creative writing, literature, education, and anti-carceral work after hearing her speak about her teaching experiences in class, I decided to apply for an Urban Fellowship in the hopes of working with YPEI or EMERGE — and now, in addition to helping EMERGE with some practical nonprofit tasks (editing some of their written materials, thinking about the organization’s messaging and presentation, etc.) I’m also a sort of poet’s assistant to Abdulldah Shabazz, a New Haven resident who wrote three collections of poetry while he was incarcerated and is now seeking a publisher for his work!

Sitting down with Mr. Shabazz, and beginning to read over and help transcribe his poems, while also working on more logistical and organizational tasks for EMERGE has made me consider a future where my interests can be more so intersecting and synthesized together rather than disparately and separately pursued — perhaps there’s a path (and destination!) for me post-grad that will feel like the arts, community engagement, nonprofit work, and publishing can all convene in the same position, and maybe even one not too different from EMERGE at that!