A Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 co-educational independent day school in Westchester County, New York

Public Purpose

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Through critical service learning, our students become active and engaged participants in shaping a more equitable and just world.
By facilitating opportunities for service learning for students Pre-K through Grade 12, the Public Purpose program at RCDS provides transformative educational opportunities that prepare students to be responsible citizens with an ethic of service, empathy, and critical reflection. We are committed to social justice and a shared responsibility to participate in the community in a way that benefits the common good. Through service learning, students develop the skills, resources, and opportunities to understand the root causes of issues in our society and to make a meaningful difference in their communities. Students and teachers approach service learning through a lens of cultivating authentic, sustainable, and reciprocal relationships with community partners. Students consider what it means to be part of a community and the ways in which we share responsibility for one another. 
The Public Purpose program offers students in all divisions an experiential understanding of how individuals within a community are connected and how we can all make a difference. We encourage students to move through the world as empathic, interconnected, and active citizens who use creative and analytical problem solving skills to address genuine community needs. Students are encouraged to reflect on and understand how self-identity and experience influence their interactions within their communities in order to form meaningful partnerships characterized by active engagement and a broad and deep appreciation of both service and community. 


Since 1869, Rye Country Day School's motto, Not for self, but for Service, has been integral to the culture of the School. 
Director of public purpose

Rebecca Drago


Signature Programs

The RCDS Community Engagement Fellowship Program

The Community Engagement Fellowship Program at Rye Country Day School funds stipends for RCDS Upper School students to partner with a community organization to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address the needs of the organization. This allows community organizations to benefit from the students' enthusiasm and passion at no cost, and it enables Upper School students from all socioeconomic backgrounds with a commitment to public purpose to participate.

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Public Purpose in the . . .

Lower School

Through classroom-driven service learning projects, students develop perspective taking and empathy, and the skills for active and engaged citizenship. They create public announcements and develop service projects, and they come to understand that their actions can make a difference. Service learning projects include the second grade’s Sound Shore unit, which emphasizes human impact on cherished natural resources; the third grade’s role in helping coordinate and spread awareness about food insecurity through partnership with a community food pantry; and the fourth grade’s exploration of inspirational citizen activists.


Middle School

The middle grades are marked by an increasing ability to understand the experiences and perspectives of others and to compare and contrast them to one’s own. Awareness is at the center of Middle School students’ development, and a sense of fairness and a desire to act along with a newfound sense of agency and empathy result. The leadership skills and knowledge gained through public purpose work in the Middle School prepare students for the continued development and practice of real world service work and critical thinking in the Upper School. 

Examples of service learning in the Middle School include: fifth grade Language Arts students partnering with students in Kenya at the WEMA Children’s Center in a book review exchange; and sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students engaging in yearlong service learning projects in which they identify and focus on an area or issue about which they are passionate, bringing in speakers, organizing drives, and visiting the sites of their various organizations.


Upper School

In the Upper School, students are supported and challenged to consider and develop active citizenship. Through public purpose project design and implementation, Upper School students experience the way that volunteer work, activism, service learning, and advocacy play out in the real world. Students take advantage of numerous public purpose entry points such as class projects; work facilitated through school clubs; tutoring programs, where students can serve as tutors and/or leaders; community engagement fellowships, which entail the development, proposal, and full-scale implementation of an idea in partnership with local organizations; diversity programs, including the student, faculty, and staff social justice committee which examines overarching societal issues. Through the development of critical thinking and critical action skills, Upper School students are able to unpack complex ideas, solve real-world problems, and reflect mindfully. Upper School students are encouraged to ask the questions: What can I learn about communities? What is my role and responsibility within communities near and far? How do I recognize and act on the benefits of an RCDS education to embody the School’s values and motto of Not for Self, but for Service?

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.