New Haven Promise Interns Gain Research and Work Experience at F&ES

By Timothy Brown

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

new haven promise interns 2017 New Haven Promise Interns Cindy Garcia, Colasia Claxton, and Mark Garcia are spending the summer working at F&ES.
Growing up, Mark Garcia wasn’t interested in science. In fact, the New Haven native enrolled at the University of Connecticut as a political science and history major. But he was inspired to pursue science after taking a biology class. Now a molecular and cell biology major on a pre-med track, the rising sophomore is considering pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. after college.
This summer Mark is one of three University of Connecticut (UCONN) interns working at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) as part of the New Haven Promise internship program. New Haven Promise, founded in 2011, provides full tuition scholarships for New Haven students to attend Connecticut’s two- and four-year public colleges and universities. Scholarships are funded by Yale University with administrative support provided by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Based on a national model for promise communities, the program promotes investment in education and economic development through place-based scholarship programs.

The internship program primarily serves students of color from lower income households — 87 percent of applicants are either Black or Hispanic, and 43 percent are from households that annually earn less than $30,000. In addition, over two-thirds of applicants’ parents have little or no college education. This is the first summer that F&ES has participated in the paid internship program, which was established in 2014. To date, roughly 200 Promise Scholars have interned in more than 30 different departments at Yale.
Numerous studies suggest a direct link between increased college matriculation and reduced incarceration rates. For example, according to New Haven Promise, just a 5-percent increase in college attendance reduces incarceration rates by 26 percent. Since its founding, the program has provided more than 1,200 scholarships to New Haven students.
Mark is interning with Peter Raymond, a professor of ecosystem ecology at F&ES, helping to collect and test water samples from northeastern Connecticut.

“We’re collecting phosphorus and nitrogen levels to see if they’re high enough to harm humans or other animals. So those numbers really count,” he said. In addition to the research experience — including conducting a literature review — Mark says he’s gained a better understanding of the graduate school process by working closely with Lisa Weber, a Ph.D. candidate in Raymond’s lab.

Weber says the program sounded like a fantastic opportunity to help mentor an undergraduate interested in a future scientific career. “As a doctoral candidate, it has been an excellent experience helping to mentor such a bright, hard-working, and motivated undergraduate intern in our lab,” she said. “Mark has contributed greatly to the Raymond Lab's aquatic biogeochemistry research, assisting in collecting samples for a suite of water quality parameters and aiding in conducting multiple chemical analyses.” 
Mark’s older sister, Cindy Garcia, a rising senior majoring in environmental studies and urban studies, is spending her summer working with the Urban Resources Initiative, an F&ES-based nonprofit. She had two internship offers, but chose to work with URI because its mission overlapped with her interests in the environment, urban studies, and education. It’s also the first internship she’s had that allows her to work outside. She is currently supervising a group of students from Common Ground High School at various Urban Oasis sites throughout New Haven.
I’ve been so intrinsically fulfilled. What I’m doing makes me feel good
— Cindy Garcia, New Haven Promise Intern
“We’re not a maintenance crew. We’re there to provide support but we’re also there to build community relationships,” she said. “I’ve been so intrinsically fulfilled. What I’m doing makes me feel good.”
The program has been beneficial to the partner organizations, too.

“The New Haven Promise internship program has enabled us to deepen our engagement with the New Haven community and to connect students with meaningful, locally-based environmental stewardship work,” said Matt Viens, Greenskills Program Manager at URI. “We would not be able to accomplish all that we have this summer — from GIS-based analysis of New Haven’s street tree inventory to the development of outreach materials in multiple languages — without Cindy’s help and hard work. She has been an invaluable addition to the URI team, and the internship program as a whole is an incredible resource for us as a small organization.”
When asked whether she’ll return to New Haven after college, Cindy says she wants to travel and do work that is similar to what she’s doing now. But eventually, she wants to settle in the Elm City.
“I definitely want to give back,” she said. “New Haven has a lot of resources that I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of.”
Colasia Claxton, a graduate of New Haven Academy, is a rising junior who studies marketing at UCONN’s School of Business. But she chose to spend the summer working at F&ES where her time has been split between several of the School’s centers and programs. Her work has ranged from identifying potential speakers for “Bright Lights, Green Sights,” a series that highlights diversity and inclusion at the intersections of business and the environment; assisting the Yale Center for Business and the Environment with their social media and marketing; and helping the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) promote their July 28 premiere of the new Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Sequel.
“People in these offices are really thoughtful in the sense that they want me to be doing things that I’m interested in and can learn from,” she said.

“Colasia has been a critical asset to our team during her short time with us in preparing for our local premiere of An Inconvenient Sequel. She’s built the Eventbrite page, designed the poster, reached out to local organizations for promotion, and been a valuable participant in our planning and brainstorming,” said Jon Ozaksut, YPCCC Digital Director. “She’s eager to learn and to do what needs getting done, and it’s been great working with her.”
Like Mark and Cindy, this is the first year Colasia has participated in the Promise internship program, but she almost ended up working at a different site. During January’s internship fair, coordinators — who knew she was studying marketing — placed her at business-oriented tables while science majors were placed with F&ES.
“They didn’t even know that F&ES needed someone with a business background. And I get it. When you hear ‘School of Forestry,’ you don’t think business,” she said. “But the outlook of being sustainable can be everywhere. I feel like F&ES could have connections with every school.”
A first-generation college student, Colasia says she has supportive parents, but didn’t want to burden them financially.
“A lot of students are unsure about going to college and how they’ll pay for it. Also students want to go out-of-state,” she said. “New Haven Promise was a real incentive to stay in-state.”
Mark agrees. “If a student is qualified for New Haven Promise, I tell them to apply,” he said. “The internship is just an supplement to help you get more money and more experience. And I feel that for me this gave me more opportunity to apply to Ph.D. and M.D. programs.”