Service Learning in Action at Rye Country Day
Now in its third year, the RCDS Edward E. Ford Foundation Community Engagement Fellowship Program awards summer fellowships to Rye Country Day School Upper School students, enabling them to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address the needs of a community partner. The program offers meaningful summer service opportunities for students and cultivates ongoing partnerships between the school and local community organizations.
Last summer, 12 Rye Country Day School E.E. Ford Fellows spent their summer collaborating with ten local community organizations to develop and implement innovative service projects:
The Carver Center, a community center in Port Chester, seeks to educate and empower families in the community. At the Carver Center, sophomore Katie Farrell created a middle school coding program to teach the children in the summer camp. In addition, senior Claire Slocum developed and taught creative movement dance classes, centered on the core principles of ballet, to children in the community.
The Westchester Community Opportunity Program, or WestCOP, also in Port Chester, features a Head Start early childhood program. For these young children, senior William Shabecoff incorporated music into an enrichment program with the goal of lowering the achievement gap and instilling a lifelong love for learning math.
Backyard Sports, a community team sports program in White Plains, helps develop and sharpen athletic skills in boys and girls ages 3-18. Junior Chris Connor helped install a gaga pit and encouraged children, including those with cognitive and social challenges, to participate and play. He also implemented and supervised a gaga program at the Thomas H. Slater Center. Through his project, Chris was able to introduce a new athletic game to the community that is inclusive of all abilities.
Our New Way Garden, also in White Plains, utilizes gardens to educate the public about locally and naturally grown food and to increase access to healthy organic produce to those who otherwise would not have access to such foods in their communities. Seniors Ethan Zeplin and Julian Martelly helped to improve and develop the community garden infrastructure, which included creating a wheelchair-accessible raised bed garden. They also increased support of the garden through developing a social media content strategy.
Save the Sound, based in Mamaroneck, seeks to protect and improve the land, air, and water of Connecticut and Long Island Sound. Senior Nishan Shehadeh collected samples of Long Island Sound water and analyzed them in the Save the Sound laboratory to measure human impact on, and the relative health of, the bays and harbors of Long Island Sound.
The Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon benefited from a program begun in the summer of 2017 by a previous RCDS Fellow. This year, sophomore Eesha Narain incorporated a drama program into the daily summer camp for students ages 7-13.
The Pleasantville Cottage School offers a residential treatment program for emotionally troubled girls and boys. Senior Nathalie Felton created an online portal to facilitate communication between administrators and volunteers at The Cottage School to ensure that volunteers’ time is used for the greatest possible benefit.
The Nathaniel Witherell is a short-term rehab and skilled nursing care center in Greenwich. Senior Joey Farrell expanded an iPad program he had begun the previous summer by providing additional iPads to the community and teaching structured group classes how to use the technology for entertainment as well as to connect with family and friends.
Building One Community in Stamford, helps immigrants and their families succeed through English language instruction, job skills training, and personal support services. Senior Charlotte Townley supported children (grades K-5), by developing a summer math program that strengthened existing math skills, introduced new material for their upcoming school year, and fostered an excitement for math.
Fresh Youth Initiatives in Washington Heights, N.Y., works with low-income, immigrant, and first-generation youth living or attending school in Washington Heights/Inwood. Senior Patricia Bautista created an interactive math enrichment program for 3rd through 5th graders centered on the fundamentals of algebra and geometry.
Over the course of their projects, the students gained empathy and leadership skills while deepening their connections to their communities.
Senior Nishan Shehadeh, working with Save the Sound in Mamaroneck, collected and analyzed samples of water from Long Island Sound.
Seniors Ethan Zeplin and Julian Martelly worked with Our New Way Garden in White Plains, creating a wheelchair-accessible, raised bed garden, as well as developing a social media plan.
Sophomore Katie Farrell created a middle school coding program to teach to children in the Carver Center summer camp.