New Haven Academy Students Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Yale

May 30, 2024

Akira Torres and Taniya Gatison spent a recent afternoon touring Payne Whitney Gymnasium with Yale Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) safety advisors Tessa Landgraf and Paul Emery. They saw the various practice courts and film rooms, dance and gymnastics studios, and experienced the heavy scent of chlorine in the various pools. 

Photo caption: Taniya Gatison and Akira Torres from New Haven Academy get a look at the strength and condition room at Payne Whitney Gymnasium during their three-week internship at Yale EHS.

It was just one of the days they spent over a three-week period learning the ins and outs of both EHS and Yale as part of their internship through New Haven Academy, where they are both finishing up their junior years.

New Haven Academy (NHA) is an interdistrict magnet school and part of New Haven Public Schools. NHA juniors spend three consecutive weeks working at internship sites across the community, engaging in hands-on experience in careers that they are potentially interested in pursuing after college. By working with people who have professional experience in a given field, students have the opportunity to think critically about their own career goals and to develop their general workplace skills. Previous internships through the school have ranged from working with the City of New Haven (government offices) to Toad’s Place.

The students took a survey to help connect them with an area of interest. Gatison hopes to be a pediatric doctor or surgeon while Torres is interested in the field of biomedical engineering.

The students spent their internship in trainings and in the field with EHS staff learning about biological safety, chemical safety, radiation safety, environmental affairs, physical safety, and hazardous and non-hazardous waste. They tested fume hoods, toured BSL-2 labs, got a look at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, the wood and metals shops, the Central Power Plant, West Campus, among other areas.

“We were surprised by the diversity of Environmental Health and Safety and did not know there were so many different aspects of what this profession entails,” Gatison said. “We were never bored and literally did many different things each day.”

Both students said they enjoyed the “hands-on” approach to the internship and felt it helped provide them with a good sense of what it would be like to have a career in the EHS field.

“It was really interesting,” Torres said. “When you live in New Haven, you see Yale every day, but EHS gave us a look at what happens inside the building and how it really works.”

“It has been a pleasure working with and getting to know these two intelligent and inspirational interns from New Haven Academy,” said Ben Fontes, senior associate director and biosafety officer for Yale EHS. “The one thing I have really appreciated about both Akira and Taniya is that during their exit interview, they offered very proactive ideas for improving the internship experience, from the information provided to interns about Yale EHS, to what they perceived as the best teaching experiences during their three weeks with us. Finally, it was heartwarming to hear that they truly enjoyed their immersion experience into our profession and both indicated they would truly miss their new friends at the EHS office.”

“It’s great to share EHS experiences with the fully engaged and eager-to-learn students from New Haven Academy,” said Kevin Charbonneau, EHS executive director. “EHS staff enjoyed meeting Taniya and Akira and showing them a day in the life of an EHS professional, which brought a new level of excitement to the office. As always, I appreciate the efforts and dedication of the EHS staff who participated in this internship and look forward to welcoming the next group of students from New Haven Academy.”