Our motto: Not for Self, but for Service

Director of Public Purpose

Service learning fosters compassion, self-discovery, transferable skill building, and ethical leadership.

Public Purpose News

Our Approach

  • We approach service learning through a lens of cultivating authentic, sustainable, and reciprocal relationships with our community partners.
  • We ask students to consider what it means to be part of a community and the ways in which we share responsibility for one another, and we encourage them to act upon that awareness with generosity and empathy.
  • Through this process, students move toward deeper community engagement and begin to experience service as a mutually beneficial partnership that extends beyond the provision of resources.

Mission Statement

Since 1869, Rye Country Day School's motto "Not for self, but for service" has been integral to the culture of the School. The Rye Country Day School philosophy states, "A superior education embraces the concept that to educate is to do more than to teach." Through service learning, we will provide transformative educational opportunities that prepare our students to be responsible citizens with an ethic of service and empathy for our shared human experience. We believe that meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships emanate from a curriculum enhanced by community engagement. Rye Country Day School's sustained commitment to making a positive impact on the community and contributing to the common good defines our public purpose.


Our focus on public purpose reflects a commitment to social justice and an institutional responsibility to participate in the community in a way that benefits the common good. We seek to provide students with skills, resources, and opportunities to understand the root causes of poverty and marginalization in our society and to apply that knowledge toward building partnerships based on trust and collaboration. Students experience service with a mindset that is inclusive not only of the work they do, but also the relationships they develop, the connections they create, and the perspective they gain.

Using an interdisciplinary and developmentally appropriate approach, our faculty integrates community and global themes across the curriculum, encouraging students to move through the world as empathic, interconnected, community-minded citizens. Through programs offered both on and off campus, students work toward developing a connection to the greater Westchester community and beyond while applying their creative and analytical problem solving skills to genuine community needs and becoming active and engaged participants in creating a better world.

Service Learning

Service learning is part of the curriculum from Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Second graders create public service announcements about the harmful effects of pollution on the ecosystems within the Long Island Sound. Fifth-grade students participate in a literature exchange with students from our partner school in Kenya, and students from both schools send book reviews to each other to demonstrate their shared love of reading. Sixth-grade students use their woodworking skills to construct little library boxes to donate to local organizations to encourage literacy in under-resourced communities. Eleventh- and twelfth-grade physics students use their knowledge of circuitry to build electrically wired dollhouses, which are donated to a local elementary school where our students teach basic physics skills to younger students. Upper School photography students donate prints to a local furniture bank so that individuals and families transitioning to permanent housing can enjoy framed original artwork in their new homes. Our service learning program offers students of all ages an experiential understanding of how all individuals within a community are connected. Service learning fosters compassion, self-discovery, transferable skill building, and ethical leadership.

Community Partnership Programs

E.E. Ford Community Engagement Fellowship Program

In 2016, RCDS launched the Community Engagement Fellowship Program with generous support from the Edward E. Ford Foundation. This program awards summer fellowships to Upper 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 member 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 SET (Saturday Enrichment and Tutorial) program is a tuition-free, academic enrichment program whose goal is to improve English literacy skills for 1st-4th grade students. SET is designed to give local public school students extra support during the school year to improve their reading and writing skills. SET classes are taught by a team of trained RCDS Upper School student mentors who use curriculum developed by Lower School faculty members. In addition, SET offers an English Language Learners (ELL) program for parents at the same time as the student program. The ELL program is taught be a team of RCDS faculty, staff, parents, and students, and is also offered at no charge. In addition to learning english, the adult participants also learn how they can support their children’s literacy skills at home.


ACTION is a summer academic enrichment program for highly motivated public school students who will be entering Grades 7, 8, and 9. The program, held at RCDS, runs through the month of July from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon. ACTION seeks to expand the academic and intellectual horizons of promising students from local communities that may not have the resources available to provide academic enrichment programs. Other than a $50 enrollment fee and transportation to and from the school, ACTION's program is offered at no cost to families. ACTION promotes confidence and strength of character while helping students grow academically and develop as leaders.


The SCOPE (Student-Centered Outreach, Partnership, and Enrichment) program is an after-school academic enrichment program that fosters literacy skills, critical thinking, and self-expression in 4th and 5th grade students. Trained RCDS Upper School volunteers teach all SCOPE classes. Fourth graders use a variety of strategies to analyze a written text, support responses with textual evidence, and write to express their ideas. Fifth graders explore the topic of civil rights while engaging with a wide variety of texts, including short biographies, poetry, and primary documents. The SCOPE curriculum is supplemented by enrichment activities including poetry, visual arts, music, movement, STEM, and journalism.


SiSTEM (Students in STEM) is a tuition-free after-school academic enrichment program focused on developing participants’ skills and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. RCDS Upper School student volunteers teach fifth grade students from local public schools through engaging hands-on activities designed to spark curiosity and excitement.


In 2012, two RCDS Upper School students founded A-Chord with Kids, a volunteer program through which Upper School students teach music to children at the Port Chester Carver Center. A-Chord’s mission is to foster in the Carver children a love, knowledge, and appreciation for music through interaction with high school musicians who wish to share the invaluable lifelong benefits of music with those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Each Saturday, RCDS students volunteer with A-Chord and help unite students of different ages and backgrounds in making music together.


SWAT (Students Working to Advance Technology) is a student-run after-school computer coding program for both RCDS Middle School students and students from local public schools. SWAT was founded by an Upper School student who wanted to teach coding to Middle School students at RCDS, and the program has now expanded to the Carver Center’s after-school program at Thomas Edison School in Port Chester with great success.

Senior Projects

During the final weeks of the school year, 12th grade students have the option to complete a self-designed Senior Project focused on service, academic exploration, or personal development. For students who choose to plan and implement a service project of their own design, senior year culminates with a meaningful learning experience that allows them to apply the skills and interests they have cultivated at RCDS to a project that fosters individual responsibility and empathy and enables them to make a positive contribution to the local or global community.

Senior Projects are a memorable culminating experience for graduating students. Through their dedication to meaningful community-engaged work, students cultivate their interests, sustain existing partnerships, forge new relationships between RCDS and community organizations, and deepen their self-awareness.


Each summer, a group of RCDS Upper School students and faculty spend eight days on a service learning trip to Nicaragua. This trip is run in partnership with Bridges to Community, a Westchester-based nonprofit whose mission is to build a more just and sustainable world through service learning and community development. Guided by a team of experienced local masons, the group builds earthquake-resistant homes for local beneficiary families who work alongside the students on the construction project. During the trip, students have opportunities for reflection, interaction with local residents, and immersion in the local culture. The Nicaragua trip is a uniquely powerful opportunity for students to engage in a meaningful and memorable community partnership.

Heifer Farm

Seventh and eighth grade students have the opportunity to participate in an annual service learning trip to Heifer Farm in Rutland, MA. Heifer International is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. Heifer Farm is a working farm that hosts overnight educational programs that combine team building with experiential learning and service activities. The trip is focused on three core components: experiential activities designed to increase the group’s understanding of the global hunger and poverty issues; hands-on service projects around the farm including gardening, maintenance, and livestock chores; and understanding how Heifer’s model produces lasting change in communities around the world while planning for taking social action when the group returns home.

See some of RCDS's local and global community partnerships on the map below.

Learn more about each of our community partners, as well as how RCDS has collaborated with these organizations, by clicking on any individual pin on the map.

Public Purpose