Public Purpose in Action: The 2016 E.E. Ford Community Engagement Fellows

This summer, Rye Country Day School launched the Edward E. Ford Foundation Community Engagement Fellowship Program. This program awards summer fellowships to high school students, enabling them to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address community needs. Fellows collaborate with a community partner organization and an RCDS faculty mentor on all phases of the project. The goal of the program is to offer meaningful summer service opportunities for students and to foster ongoing partnerships between RCDS and local community organizations.

The inaugural group included eleven students working in partnership with nine community organizations across Westchester and Fairfield Counties, including The Port Chester Carver Center, Neighbors Link Stamford, Mamaroneck Avenue School's Co-Op Camp, Port Chester Middle School's Giving Garden, Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon, Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour, Developmental Steps, and The Children's Village.

Many of the Community Engagement Fellows developed original programs from the ground up. Examples included building computers from parts to establish a tech center and teaching coding classes at a local community center; planning an academic enrichment camp for middle school students; creating a buddy program pairing high school volunteers with children with special needs; collecting school supplies for schools in Syrian refugee camps; and running sports and performing arts programs at two local summer camps. Other students provided needed support for existing programs at community organizations by helping to preserve local parks, strengthen resources for future volunteers at a youth program, and encourage family involvement at a community garden. Over the course of their projects, the students gained compassion and leadership skills while deepening their connections to their communities.

The students will be presenting their projects at the E.E. Ford Community Engagement Fellows Symposium on Wednesday, September 28, 2016, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall. All RCDS students, families, faculty, friends, and community partners are invited. Please RSVP here if you would like to attend.

2016 Community Engagement Fellows

Zoe Athanason '18

Community Partners: Church of Our Saviour (Rye, NY) and International Orthodox Christian Charities (Baltimore, MD)

IOCC offers emergency relief and development programs to those in need worldwide. Of the estimated 57,000 refugees and migrants living in Greece, more than half are women and children. Working in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour, Zoe created and assembled over 300 school supply kits to donate to schools for children living in the Syrian refugee camps in Greece. Zoe's goal for this project was to help address the education deficit for Syrian refugee children due to lack of resources in the refugee camps.

Faculty Mentor: Pamela Sheehy

Alex Berger '17

Community Partner: The Children's Village (Dobbs Ferry, NY)
The Children's Village's is a residential school for at-risk boys, whose mission is to help vulnerable children become educationally proficient, economically productive, and socially responsible members of their communities. For his project, Alex created a catalog of educational activities that can be used with 6-11 year-old boys in pre-existing and future Children's Village programs. Through this project, Alex hoped to serve as a positive role model for at-risk youth and create a resource that will enable others to do the same in the future.

Faculty Mentor: Rachel Sirwatka

Alonzo Diaz '18

Community Partner: Port Chester Middle School Giving Garden (Port Chester, NY)
Port Chester Middle School serves 1105 students in grades 6-8. The school's Giving Garden harvests over 1000 pounds of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables each year, which are distributed to local families in need. Alonzo worked to help sustain the school's garden, ran family volunteer sessions, and used social media to raise awareness about the garden and its mission. As a lifelong Port Chester resident, Alonzo wanted to help address food insecurity in his local community through this project.

Faculty Mentor: Kerry Linderoth

Alex Goddard '17

Community Partner: Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary (Rye, NY)

The Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary is a 179-acre wildlife sanctuary that features a shoreline on Long Island Sound, Manursing Lake, salt-marsh wetland, trails through a deciduous forest, a bamboo grove, and fields of native grasses and wildflowers. Alex completed several building projects, including a compost bin and a memorial bench, as well as repairing and maintaining trails and removing invasive plants. Alex's goal for this project was to bring together his strong interest in environmental conversation and his longstanding connection to Edith Read as a member of the RCDS cross country team and previous volunteer in the park.

Faculty Mentor: Clemmie Everett

Paulina Harasimowicz '19

Community Partner: Developmental Steps (Port Chester, NY)

Developmental Steps is a pediatric physical therapy center offering a variety of solutions to help children with developmental or physical challenges reach their highest potential. At Developmental Steps, Paulina connected with families and learned about different approaches for assisting children with special needs. She created USOAR (Uniting Students of All Ranges), a buddy program that pairs children with special needs with high school student volunteers who will be trained to help them participate in mainstream activities. By launching this program, Paulina hoped to both help children with special needs navigate extracurricular activities and provide an opportunity for high school students to connect with and understand children with special needs.

Faculty Mentor: Jacquie Butera

Faith Hardy '19

Community Partner: Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, NY)

The Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon is a youth development organization offering a variety of programs designed to help children learn and grow while having fun. The Boys and Girls Club runs multiple programs, including a summer camp. For her project, Faith directed a musical theater performance to introduce a performing arts component into the summer program. An avid singer, dancer, and actress, Faith wanted to expose students to all aspects of a musical theater production and help them discover their talents and work together toward a common goal.

Faculty Mentor: Jay Gerlach

Daniel Leva '17

Community Partner: The Carver Center (Port Chester, NY)

Project Description: The Port Chester Carver Center has been serving the community's children and families since 1943. Carver's mission is to build brighter futures by serving, educating, and empowering families in the community. Daniel developed and taught two introductory computer coding courses to 80 students whose school district does not offer computer science classes. He also created an original textbook to supplement students' learning. Through this program, Daniel's goal was to both teach the fundamental concepts of computer science and to inspire and elicit future interest from the next generation of coders.

Faculty Mentor: Andrew Burke

Alexei Mentzer '18 and Owen Coady '19

Community Partner: Mamaroneck Avenue School Co-Op Camp (Mamaroneck, NY)

Co-Op Camp is a school-based and curriculum-focused summer program serving 225 elementary school students who lack access to other area camps, as well as special needs students who receive extended year services during the summer. For their project, Owen and Alexei planned and ran the camp sports program, which would have otherwise been eliminated due to district budget cuts. They also participated in the Co-Op Camp Steering Committee, a group of community members working to sustain the camp in the future. Owen and Alexei developed this project as a way of focusing on poverty, a problem they observe on a daily basis, and giving back to their local community.

Faculty Mentor: Marcie Berger

Ryan Stackpole '17

Community Partner: Carver Center, Port Chester, NY

The Port Chester Carver Center has been serving the community's children and families since 1943. Carver's mission is to build brighter futures by serving, educating, and empowering families in the community. Ryan spearheaded the development of Carver's Tech Center, a renovated storage room converted into an inviting computer classroom. Through Ryan's leadership of the TechCorps training program, local middle and high school students built desktop computers for use in the Tech Center. Ryan's goal for this project was to make technology accessible, engaging, and fun for Carver students. Faculty Mentor: Andrew Sage

Faculty Mentor: Andrew Sage