With an aim to educate youth about social justice topics and issues, the City of New Haven Office of Youth, Family & Engagement, in conjunction with New Haven Public School and the Tow Youth Justice Institute of the University of New Haven, established the Summer Social Justice School Program in 2019. This program, running concurrently with NHPS Summer of Fun, allows students to choose from a variety of four 45-minute activities and educational classes. The New Haven Summer Social Justice School is a 5-week program offered from Monday to Thursday during the summer months which starts the first week of July until the first week of August at James Hillhouse High School in New Haven.
The program is open to all New Haven Public Schools 6th to 12th-grade students participating in the Summer of Fun where participants are grouped separately for middle school and high school students and navigate between chosen activities, including yoga, cooking classes, and dance.
Last year, The Social Justice School program curricula consisted of social justice topics and issues, presented by various UNH faculty like Dr. Melissa L. Whitson, who spoke about the Social injustice of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and local legislative leaders like Representative Robin Porter, who spoke with the group about the C.R.O.W.N ACT that she helped pass in the State of Connecticut, which explicitly outlines practices around hair discrimination; Louis L. Reed, Sr. Director of Membership and Partnerships for REFORM Alliance, who talked about his role in helping changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing; David Schroeder, Associate Dean at The University of New Haven, who discussed self-reflection and Social Justice, Leonhard Jahard and his staff from CT Violence Intervention Plan, William Carlos, Juvenile Probation Officer, who had a round table discussion about Teen Dating Violence, and a host of other professionals from partnering organizations like the Center for Children’s Advocacy.
These professionals deliver lectures and narratives to educate students about the issues faced by youth in their communities. Participants of the program explore opportunities for youth justice careers, student rights, mental health issues, underage drinking, drugs, trafficking, LGBTQ+, childhood trauma, gender inequality, problems in schools, homelessness, and youth support services, among others.
The Summer Social Justice School is an opportunity for youth to explore responses to community challenges they may face and offer the opportunity to learn how to use their progress toward a more fulfilling and rewarding life. Albert Einstein once said, “Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life”.