FOCUS Values

FOCUS participants, along with their upperclassmen leaders, meet with local activists and organizers and examine a wide breadth of local issues, including immigration, education, politics, race, economic development, and town-gown relations. They learn about New Haven as a whole, taking part in tours of neighborhoods, discussion panels, and meetings with community leaders. In addition to this general view, FOCUS participants also get to engage directly with individual local non-profit organizations through small group service projects at local non-profits. Having viewed New Haven from multiple perspectives over the course of the program, FOCUS challenges participants to reflect on their present and future roles in their community, gaining a better sense of both the city in which they live and the role they can play in it.

Before the start of the program, we hope you consider the following guiding principles and practices for FOCUS on New Haven programs:


Fight for justice everywhere. Fix power imbalances where none ought to exist.

Speak truth to power, even when it is uncomfortable or unconventional.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. —Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from Birmingham Jail


Root your activism in love for your community.

Practice non-judgemental love: Everyone, including you, has a unique set of gifts that they bring to the table.

Our real connections to other people are invaluable.

self-love, too. Caring for others begins with caring for oneself.


Listen just as much as you speak.

Have cultural humility – a process-oriented, not ends-oriented, approach to cultural competence.

You can’t always be the one helping. It’s more than okay to need help!

Recognize the dangers of self-righteousness: don’t act like you know more than you do.


Ask questions, of yourself and others, but don’t lose hope when answers are hard to come by. Start with questions, not solutions. Ask:

Why are conditions/systems the way that they are?

Who made them that way?

What needs to be done to make things better?

What don’t I know?

Who can I collaborate with?

Growth Mindset

Internalize a growth mindset: a lifelong commitment to compassionate self-evaluation and self-critique.

We are never finished. We never arrive at a point where we are done learning.

Welcome feedback

You will make mistakes – ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself, and use the experience to grow and learn

You don’t need to always be focused on changing the world; you can focus on being changed by the world.

Strive to exist in the Stretch Zone between your Comfort Zone and your Panic Zone

This is where growth, action, and excitement live

Challenging conversations that ultimately build connection occur here.


You have agency – you get to decide what actions you take and what beliefs you will hold.

The choices you make – what you say, where you spend your money, how you take up space – all have an impact on your communities, whether or not you know it or like it.

FOCUS will provide participants with a flashlight to light the way (and the support system), but in the end, you will need to navigate on your own through the tunnel of personal development, Yale-New Haven relations, and the challenges of college.

Caring for others begins with caring for yourself.


As best you can, act such that your intentions and impact are in line with your values and true beliefs. Be clear with yourself and others about your motives.

Everyone cares about something, and what people care about provides their motivation to act.

Active Citizenship

Individuals have a responsibility to their community.

Practice asset-based community engagement, not deficits-based community engagement.

A resident-centered, relationships-based movement is the key to sustainable community engagement and uplift.

Institutions/systems should be servants of the people.

Yale is a center of knowledge, but not the center of knowledge in New Haven.