Students Volunteering

Yale offers students a wide range of opportunities to get involved with the community. There is a strong tradition of giving back, and over the course of their time in New Haven, the majority of students volunteer in some way.

The first opportunity arises even before the school year begins with SAY New Haven—a four-day, pre-orientation program in which students help with a range of service projects throughout the city. Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and paint projects are some of the things students have done in the past.  About 30 students participate each year.  

HAVEN Free Clinic is another popular community program. Started in 2005, the student-run clinic offers free primary care services supervised by attending physicians. Organized by students in the health professions, the clinic is run out of the Fair Haven Community Health Center from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

The Committee Overseeing Volunteer Services (COVS)

The Committee Overseeing Volunteer Services (COVS) is the student-run umbrella organization for many volunteer services. Its purpose is to help connect students with programs that will stimulate their interest and make the best use of their time while they are at Yale. Email for more information. Another organization that keeps track of volunteer opportunities at Yale is the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, which lists school partnerships and Yale programs for the community on its web site,

COVS represents the following organizations:

  • Anatomy Teaching Project/Program – Medical students and faculty teach anatomy at Hill Regional High School to junior and senior high school students. Participants use lab facilities at the medical school twice a month. Lab activities range from observation of dissected cadavers to using the slides and microscopes in the histology laboratories.
  • HIV Intervention & Prevention Corps (HIP Corps) is a year-long outreach program intended to reduce the incidence of new HIV infection among youth. Volunteers work with students on issues of HIV education, prevention, empowerment and community development.
  • Columbus House provides emergency shelter and transitional living for 101 men and women, including food, shower and laundry facilities.
  • The Hunger and Homelessness Auction is a week-long series of events culminating in a live auction. The proceeds of the auction go to local non-profit organizations that work to alleviate hunger and homelessness. The more than $22,000 raised last year benefited Loaves and Fishes, Life Haven, Youth Continuum, New Haven Home Recovery, the Community Health Care Van, St. Thomas More and Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.
  • Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) serves individuals, families and children in the greater New Haven area. It provides hot evening meals and bag lunches and maintains a food pantry that distributes bags of food one day a week and an emergency food for people in crisis. Volunteers prepare, store, stock and serve food as well as help with fundraising, advertising, deliveries and administration.
  • Youth Science Enrichment Program (YSEP) introduces fourth- and fifth-grade students to the organ systems of the body through lectures and instruction using anatomical models, medical instruments and Internet resources. The goal is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups pursuing science careers.
  • Health Professionals Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) is a nationwide high school science enrichment program aimed at recruiting African American, Native American and Latino high school students into careers in the science and health professions. Each year more than 30 New Haven high school students attend eight Saturday sessions run by Yale minority graduate and professional students. They participate in small group discussions on health topics within medicine and public health.
  • Neighborhood Health Project conducts workshops at neighborhood food pantries to teach participants about high blood pressure, diabetes and other heath concerns.