This summer, Rye Country Day School launched the Edward E. Ford Foundation Community Engagement Fellowship Program through the school’s public purpose initiative. This program awards summer fellowships for high school students to collaborate with community partner organizations to develop and implement innovative, sustainable projects that address authentic community needs. Fellows work closely with their community partner and a faculty mentor on all phases of the project.
The public purpose program at RCDS seeks to “provide transformative education opportunities that prepare our students to be responsible citizens with an ethic of service and empathy for our shared human experience.” The goals of the Community Engagement Fellowship Program are to offer meaningful summer service opportunities for students and foster ongoing partnerships between RCDS and local community organizations.
The inaugural cohort included eleven students working in partnership with nine local community organizations. Many of the Community Engagement Fellows developed original programs from the ground up, including 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, 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.