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

From the Fellows: Caroline Antonacci '20

Reflections from Community Engagement Fellows

The Edward E. Ford Foundation Community Engagement Fellowship Program at Rye Country Day School enables RCDS Upper School students to partner with a community organization to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address the needs of the organization. Learn more about the program and meet current and past fellows here.

In this Q&A series entitled "From the Fellows," 2019 E. E. Ford Fellows share their reflections on their community engagement experience.

Caroline Antonacci '20 and Isabella Dartnell '20 partnered with The Port Chester Carver Center to organize and lead a STEAM camp. During her time at the Carver Center, we asked Caroline four questions about her experience as an E. E. Ford Community Engagement Fellow.

What was your Community Engagement Project?

Isabella Dartnell and I ran a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) camp at the Carver Center for our fellowship project. The Carver Center is a community center located in Port Chester, N.Y. that provides services such as after school programs, citizenship classes, and a food pantry. This summer, the center offered a day camp for children from underserved communities. The center also helped countless children and families with financial aid, so many did not have to pay to go to camp. For one hour a day, Isabella and I did STEAM experiments with the students in order to build their confidence and help them enjoy learning so that they can do their best and feel good about themselves in the classroom.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

My favorite part of this experience was seeing the students grow to love learning, especially science. On the first day, we asked the students, who are four years old, if they knew what science is. Not many of them knew. By the end of our two weeks of working with them on experiments, they all were very eager to learn more and told us that they loved doing projects with us. I also loved when students asked me questions about how experiments work because it showed that they were interested and that they wanted to learn more.

What advice do you have for peers who are interested in community engagement and public purpose?

I would advise my peers to find an organization that interests them and ask about ways to get involved. It is pretty easy and there are so many opportunities. Also, RCDS has a lot of great opportunities such as clubs, SET, SCOPE, etc. I recommend taking advantage of these. Finding something that really interests you is the key. If you do not enjoy it, it will not be meaningful.

Do you have any additional comments or anecdotes you'd like to share?

Saying goodbye to the students, although sad, really showed how much of a bond we had. They were all sad for us to go, and they wanted to keep exploring science with us. This showed me that we reached our goal for students to love learning and for them to be confident!

One of my favorite days working with the students was the day after my birthday. Isabella told them it had been my birthday the day before, and then a lot of them made me birthday cards and pictures. It was so cute, and it made me so grateful for the connection we had.