Intern Spotlight: Elena Brennan

Name: Elena Brennan
Hometown: New Haven CT
College and Major: Wesleyan Government & American Studies
Tutoring Site: Science Park
Clubs: Math II
Favorite Childhood Book: The Bloody Jack book series by L.A. Meyer & Katherine Kellgren

At the start of this summer, I was feeling really down. The in-person job I was looking forward to was canceled because of  COVID and I felt an overwhelming lack of purpose. Besides being desultory, I was worried about kids in New Haven who I knew would have to go months without normal school and summer camp. When I met up with a friend in the park (masks on and far apart) she mentioned that New Haven Reads would still be hosting online camp and was seeking interns. I was elated! It sounded like an amazing experience where I could have a real impact during this challenging time. 

Growing up in New Haven, I was always aware of New Haven Reads and the work they did in the community. I had peers who tutored during the academic year and they all loved their experience. This summer has taught me why NHR is so widely regarded. Every day filled me with so much joy! I have worked with incredible kids who love to laugh out loud at the funny books we read together and scream at the spooky ones! I also had the privilege of working with staff members who care deeply about improving the literacy of children and providing the best educational experience possible for them.

My favorite role this summer was leading Math II Club. At the start of the summer, every student tested at a different level. I knew that I would have to create tailored lesson plans to meet their individual needs. I could not have done it on my own. With the recommendations of my site leaders and incredible volunteers, Math II Club quickly fell into a productive rhythm. I would start each session with a brain teaser for the entire group. Then, each student entered a breakout room with a volunteer where they worked one-on-one to tackle personalized lessons. It is incredible that we were able to provide a one-on-one math experience to students, something many hadn’t had for months since in-person school ended. This wouldn’t have been possible without the many dedicated volunteers who I worked with this summer. Their continued efforts speak to the unique community created at NHR.

New Haven Reads put forth an incredible amount of effort to make this summer as engaging as possible despite being over Zoom. We utilized digital libraries, online math activities, Pictionary websites, fun videos, and more to provide students with an incredible experience. I want to thank the organization for everything it does for my community. I also want to thank the First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank for making this internship possible. Thank you!