Neighborhood Focus: Newhallville

Solar Youth focuses its programs on specific New Haven neighborhoods that have few constructive out-of-school opportunities for young people. Our aim is to establish a pipeline of programs in these neighborhoods, which we call the Cycle of Stewardship, so that youth can participate in Solar Youth from as young as the age of four all the way through high school graduation and beyond. Over time, through a series of PROGRAMS, a PRESENCE in their communities, and support from our PARTNERS, Solar Youth supports youth as they build on their experiences, maintain relationships, progressively gain leadership skills, become positive change agents in their environments, and as teenagers serve as role models for younger children. By progressing through the Cycle, Solar Youth becomes a safe, consistent, and loving part of each of our young people's often chaotic lives. As more than one of our youth have said, "Solar Youth is like my family."

One of Solar Youth’s program sites is Newhallville, where we have had a consistent after-school presence for two years. We currently base our programs out of St. Andrews Church on Shelton Ave. Pastor Tracy and her team have been incredibly gracious hosts and much appreciated partners.

Stewards enjoying the sunshine at St. Andrews Church in Newhallville!!!

During program, Newhallville Stewards explore the neighborhood, learning about local ecology and issues of importance to the community: they walk the Farmington Canal bike path, visit Beaver Pond Park (where many Stewards recently had their first swan sighting) and really look forward to eventualy spending a lot of time at the Ivy Street Greenhouse and collaborating with local gardeners, Lincoln-Basset School, Neighborhood Housing Services and others. 

A swan sighting; the end of an exploration at Beaver Pond

Stewards also help make Newhallville a better place to live, work and play by supporting other community groups’ projects and designing and implementing their own C-SAPs! Solar Youth frequently partners with Tammy Chapman and Newhallville Community Matters on street clean-ups, including a recent one of Lilac Street, and other projects like handing out flyers on community events. In March, Solar Youth Educators Gammy and Hawa tabled at a neighborhood health fair, dispensing tips on nutrition. Later this spring, staff and Stewards will coordinate an activity at a pop-up village as part of the Arts and Ideas festival.

Stewards passing out flyers on a community clean-up; picking up trash at Lincoln-Basset School

We’ve loved getting to know our Newhallville Stewards, their families and other residents over these past two years and are proud to play a role in promoting environmental and community stewardship in the neighborhood over the long term!

Solar Youth Interns become Hip Hop Poets and Film Producers!

In a collaboration made possible by the Perrin Family Foundation between Solar Youth, hip hop poet and playwright Aaron Jafferis, film production organization Hallah Edutainment and the Citywide Youth Coalition, Solar Youth teenage Interns recently embarked on a special poetry-writing and documentary-making project that will culminate with the screening of an Intern-produced video at Solar Youth’s spring Public Education Forum on May 22nd.


At the first session on February 17th, Solar Youth Interns and Educators participated in a writing and forum theater workshop, facilitated by Aaron and Solar Youth Educator Josh, to create insightful poetry and actions that portrayed important problems in their communities. This exercise provided an outlet for Interns to articulate and share their experiences candidly and creatively while feeling comfortable, confident, and empowered. Almost everyone shared their unique poem or rap, each of which communicated a deep sense of emotion surrounding community challenges that are otherwise difficult to talk about. We are so proud of our Interns!

Hashim Allah of Hallah Edutainment recorded audio and video of this process, and spoke with Interns David and Danny, who will help Hashim lead the ongoing recording, editing, and final production of the video. 

Aaron and Hashim are activists and work extensively with youth development initiatives throughout New Haven. Aaron has led and facilitated hip-hop theater/poetry initiatives with various youth programs since 1996.  Hashim is a poet and founder of Hallah Edutainment, a youth development organization that offers several unique programs to urban youth including hip hop literacy, theatre, expressive broadcasting, and environmental education. 

In addition to the screening at the season-end Public Education Forum, Interns will deliver a workshop at the Citywide Youth Coalition’s 2014 Youth Summit in mid-April to share resources and experiences with their peers.

We want to thank everyone involved for their support in making this unique project possible for our Interns! 

Ms. Harrison and Mr. Juarez go to Hartford!

On Valentine's Day, we made our annual trip to the Capitol to testify in support of continued funding for Solar Youth from the State of Connecticut. Joining us this year were Solar Youth alumnus Quintaisja Harrison and current Intern Andy Juarez. Check out their inspiring testimony below:

Quintaisja Harrison, Solar Youth Alumnus (at top right in photo below)

Age: 18

Number of seasons with Solar Youth: 8, from 2010 through 2013

Solar Youth has helped me become a more confident and outgoing individual. This organization has helped to shape my community for the better allowing me to interact with others in my neighborhood. Working as an intern for Solar Youth during high school helped me to become a more patient, interactive, and determined young adult. For four years I have worked with incredible individuals that have given me hope for a better future. I opened my mind to new things such as exploration and Community Service Action Projects also known as CSAPS’s. I enjoyed working with children around my neighborhood and making a difference in their lives. Every year I look forward to Solar Youth programming so that I can be with others who enjoy explorations and working with young children to give them a shot at an experience that I cherish so much.  As of now I am a current freshman at the University of Hartford studying to become a Physical Therapist.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think back on all of the great opportunities and experiences that solar youth had to offer. This by far is one of the best programs that I have been involved in that reaches across a city and touches so many people forever bonding us and leaving behind a lifetime full of memories and unexpected friendships.

Andy Juarez, Solar Youth Intern (At top right in photo below)   


Age: 17

Number of seasons with Solar Youth: 6, from 2006 through 2014

When I was in middle school I participated in a local organization called Solar Youth; a group that reaches out to youth throughout New Haven to teach them about the environment and the importance of conservation. There were various activities that consisted of exploring the community and conducting student-led C-SAP’s, Community Service Action Projects. Through Solar Youth, I was introduced to the idea of preserving nature and the environment. The activities and projects I was a part of as a youth sparked my interest. I was so intrigued by the marvels of nature and the mysteries it unravels that once in high school, I became a youth educator with the program.

I worked for this organization for 2 years with kids ranging from 5 to 11 years old. Teaching kids the same values I learned, and showing them that they can make a difference in the world, is significant to me. I did not only become a leader in my community, but I made a positive difference in the lives of the youth I worked with and the environment. Often times during program, the students would tell me that they were teaching their friends at school and their families what I was teaching them. One time when a parent picked up their child, they told me that I was doing a great job teaching their child. The parent had observed a change in attitude for the environment in the student. This experience inspired me to continue learning about the environment and pursue an environmental science concentration at the Sound School.

Thanks for being such amazing Solar Youth Ambassadors, Quintaisja and Andy!

Newhallville Stewards Imagine Peace in New Haven

Newhallville Steward Team decided to address the far reaching problem of gun violence in their communities.  While one Steward pointed out that gun violence is not unique to New Haven, as “we have a war going on in Afghanistan, and it’s all over America,” the youth decided the global scale of violence was not the place to begin work, but instead to plant the seed of “imagining the world at peace.”   Solar Youth's partner Joe Brummer, Associate Executive Director of Community Mediation, Inc has led several eye-opening Nonviolent Communication trainings for SY Staff and Interns.  When he learned of our C-SAP, he was thrilled to collaborate with the youth of Newhallville and facilitated a workshop defining violence, exploring some root causes and brainstorming some solutions.  The discussions were poignant, charged with emotion and questioning, and one Intern even expressed his gratitude for Joe joining us in facing this daunting issue, saying “I really like him.  He brings a lot of good ideas and makes me think about things in different ways than I’m used to.  I guess that’s the kind of thinking we need in order to change things.”   

After meeting with Joe Brummer, the Stewards of Newhallville decided to create a positive youth empowerment song to the tune of Loyals by Lorde.  Here they are! 

Solar Youth NHV Steward Team CSAP Song Fall 2013

To the tune of “Royals” by Lorde

We are the stewards of Solar Youth.
We’re going to pick up all the trash in the neighborhood.
We’re going to help the community,
To make it nice and safe,
Cuz we love our people.

And everybody’s like:
In Solar youth, havin fun doin CSAP
Hiking, biking, drinking plenty water
Cuz we care.

Kids Explore Kids do Kids teach.
And everybody loves
Playing games and Going on adventures,
Making new friends, working in the garden,
Homework help.
We are striving for excellence.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (Rulers)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (We rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

We want to play and go outside
So we work for a brighter day tomorrow.
With all the violence in our world
We want it all to stop.
Enough pain and sorrow.

That’s why we sing this song:
In Solar Youth, havin fun, doin CSAP
Hiking, biking, drinking plenty water
Cuz we care
Kids explore Kids do Kids teach
And everybody loves
Playing games and going on adventures,
Making new friends, working in the garden,
Homework help.
We are striving for excellence.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (ruler)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (We rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

Oooooh Oooooh Ooooh
We manifest destiny, And I’m in love with bein free.

Ooooh Ooooh OOOOh
Interdependence is our way; we are growing stronger every day.

And we’ll always be loyal (loyal)
Loyal to community
We sing and drum songs on the bus
And you know we care for us.

Cuz we are the rulers (rulers)
Rulers of our destiny
And baby we rule (we rule we rule we rule)
This is youth empowerment.

Original Lyrics by Newhallville Steward Team, Katie Jones, Hawa Cisse, Michilla Robinson, Special Thanks to Naila Smalls, Raymond Bowens, Jayla Bowens, Aaliyah Moses, Anthony Deis, Shalice


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Ivy Street Community Garden Greenhouse Project 2013!

The Ivy Street Community Garden Greenhouse Project is currently underway!!!  On Wednesday, October 16th the Ivy Street Community Garden, located at the corner of Ivy Street and Shelton Avenue in Newhallville, was honored by (former) Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Erik Johnson from Livable City Initiative, and the Lincoln-Bassett Choir.

Photo from: "A Greenhouse Rises in Newhallville" by Thomas MacMillan (New Haven Independent)Photo from: "A Greenhouse Rises in Newhallville" by Thomas MacMillan (New Haven Independent)

For the past year, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven has supported a resident-led initiative to bring a greenhouse to an active community garden located in Newhallville. Newhallville residents developed the plan with the aim of turning the garden into a thriving center for community involvement and education. The greenhouse will serve as a model facility where gardeners will be able to extend their growing season while both students and community residents will be invited to learn urban farming practices and sustaina ble energy techniques.

The Greenhouse project is a  collaborative effort involving local community gardeners, the City of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative, the New Haven Land Trust, Lincoln-Bassett School, Solar Youth, SEEDnh, Common Ground High School, and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.  The partners for the construction included United Way and PCL Walsh Construction Company for coordinating and providing the footing and foundation for the greenhouse.


Solar Youth will be a special part of this project! We will be able to teach youth hands on skills about gardening which would include the Ivy Street gardeners. Starting in March, Solar Youth will have a visible area in the garden and will support the educational needs that the youth will explore in the green house.


For more information on this project check out the article, "A Greenhouse Rises is Newhallville" writen by Thomas MacMillan of the New Haven Independent! 

The Big Stink!!!

Community gardens?  Advocating for food justice?  A morning spent in the fresh fall air?  How could Leaders in Training NOT be there?

Former basketball player and food justice hero Will Allen was in New Haven two weeks ago, participating in The Big Stink, a tour of New Haven community gardens, where volunteers were planting garlic to raise awareness for the need for access to fresh food in urban areas.  Leaders in Training (Solar Youth’s program for 7th and 8th graders) were chosen to lead volunteers for the planting in the Ivy Street Community Garden in Newhallville.

It was a chilly day, but that didn’t give these leaders pause for a second.  After finally finding the garden (they may have gotten a little lost along the way), they prepped the beds in preparation for the planting.  There were four different kinds of garlic to choose from, and each of these four stewards chose a species they felt matched their personality!  

When the bus finally arrived, these phenomenal youth each spoke about Solar Youth in front of over 40 people!  They explained the best way to plant garlic, which they learned the week prior at the Yale Farm, and demonstrated in the beds they prepared.

Everyone was very impressed with our Leaders ability to speak in public, teach environmental skills, and advocate for the change they want to see in their communities.  By the end of the day, they were beaming with pride!  Way to go LITs!

Thanks to Chris Randall for taking such awesome photos!  Check out more photos from The Big Stink HERE!

Fall 2012 Intern Retreat: Camping in the Rain!

On Friday, September 28, 17 high school Interns and four Solar Youth staff loaded a bus and headed out towards Massachusetts for a two-day staff retreat.  

At the beginning of each season, Solar Youth Interns and Educators complete a two-week intensive staff training and two-day retreat to prepare them for the start of programs.  This year the retreat took place in the Berkshires at Noble View Camp in Russell, MA.  Despite the rain everyone was in high spirits and had a blast!  The Interns and Educators hiked by waterfalls, learned new skills from one another, hosted a Solar Youth Idol, made a campfire (in the rain), and all grew closer together. 

Here are a few highlights from their trip!

Interns used their map and navigation skills to lead a hike!

The group walked by waterfalls, learned about safe river crossings, and saw salamanders! 

Returning Interns put their skills to work by leading group activities and games after the hike!  

After a busy weekend, everyone returned to the office in high spirits! One of the returning Interns said, “I would just like to thank you all for making this trip fun. I was not looking forward to camping.  I thought I was going to cry every night.  But I didn’t! I had a lot of fun getting to know you all!”   Thanks again to AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program for supporting us and making these trips possible!

Check out more photos of the Fall 2012 Intern Retreat trip HERE!

Spring 2012 PEF Slideshow!

Every season, Solar Youth holds a Public Education Forum where kids showcase their Community Service Action Projects (C-SAPs). Here's a look back at their incredible work, and play!

Special thanks to Hallie Martenson for creating the beautiful slideshow!

Niamke and the Cycle of Stewardship

Niamke Ellis has been a Steward since the fall season of 2003. Since then, his passion for service and his heart for Solar Youth have carried him through several Program Internships, where he has consistently been a leader among Stewards and peers alike.

This fall, nine years since he first joined Solar Youth, Niamke will be heading off to attend college at the University of Bridgeport taking with him all that he has learned and accomplished at Solar Youth. As a farewell to his Intern years, and a thank you to the staff at Solar Youth, Niamke prepared a speech that he read at the Public Education Forum last week. 

From participant of ’03 to intern of 2012. From ecosystem and watersheds to my current Advanced Placement Environmental Science class. Being in Solar Youth all these years has taught me how to give guidance and be a leader. Taught me to be responsible. I’ve also learned great work ethics through training and working at the sites. From Solar Youth I’ve gained a vast amount of information about guiding a group, whether it be the smallest of Citycology to the energetic Steward Teams.

Guidance: Advice or information aimed at resolving a problem or difficulty. Not being a dictator or a boss, but guiding the group to success. This I have accomplished with the countless CSAPs, programs, and PEFs like today that I have completed.

Within Solar Youth – mainly in the past four years I have been working – I have become extremely responsible in everything I do. Being prepared, having great attendance, and knowing my role. This has helped mold me into the responsible individual that I am today.

Because of Solar Youth I have acquired many skills. From the start at John S. Martinez, to Citycology, to my current 6th grade Barnard Steward Team. Because of training and all of the time spent working at Solar Youth I have gained many skills and strengths. Public speaking, behavior management, knowledge of the environment, and much more.

Because of Solar Youth I have developed a positive sense of self, a connection and commitment to others, and I am here today to pass down my knowledge and thank Solar Youth for what they represent. 

Clockwise from top left: With Randall, another Steward-turned-Intern in summer camp; Finishing an activity during the Summer Camp "Morning Cruise"; Dress-up (always a SY favorite); Reading his speech at the Solar Youth PEF; Leading a game during Barnard Steward Team; Helping Stewards plan their teach project during the Spring 2012 Youth Summit

We're so proud of you, Niamke!
You'll be an incredible example of leadership wherever you go!

Spring 2012 Public Education Forum

At the close of every program season, Solar Youth Stewards, staff, parents, friends, and community members gather to teach and learn from one another.

This spring, we came together at City Hall on May 24 for one final hurrah, and to celebrate a fun and successful season. Youth presented their Community Service Action Projects (CSAPs) and other activities, and enjoyed a round of Solar Youth singing, as well as movies and slideshows starring them and their wonderful work!

Left to right: Intern David and Educator Shakila emceed the event; Stewards Kema and Keharra presented on their garden project; Intern Rigo hung out with Citycology buddy Terry

You can find more photos of the event on our Facebook page, and videos one and two of kids' CSAPs our YouTube Channel!

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