On Monday, April 30, Rivers’ sophomores took a break from classes to devote to RISE Day, the culmination of a yearlong service-learning program designed to encourage personal growth and the development of leadership skills through service. Students spent the morning off-campus volunteering at seven different non-profits before returning for lunch and an afternoon service project packaging thousands of meals for End Hunger Northeast. Rounding out the day were presentations on various service opportunities by classmates and upperclassmen.
Now in its eighth year, RISE (Reflection and Introspection through Service Education) is a key component of the Grade 10 curriculum. Earlier in the year, sophomores explored an issue in society that they cared about and presented their findings to their classmates. Then they broke into project groups around particular interests, and as a group decided how to raise awareness and what action they will take around their selected topic.
RISE Day began with breakfast and short presentations by classmates about non-profits they worked with for their RISE projects. Lizzie Jack spoke about the TOPS Soccer project, for which she and Logan Taylor-Black organized a contingent of Rivers volunteers.
“TOPs Soccer is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers,” explained Lizzie. “This program meets every Friday and about two dozen high school students work with young disabled children from around the area. As opposed to a regular team soccer practice, there’s not as much emphasis on drills that focus on improving the player’s skills, but rather our drills are meant to be fun and help form connections between the athlete and the volunteer. This program is beneficial to the kids because all of these children have either a mental or physical disability, so they don't get the opportunity to play on traditional town team sports…This program is also beneficial for the parents of the athletes because they get to watch their child smiling and having a good with a group of people that completely support them and want to help them have as much fun as they can. It’s the kids that make this program worthwhile and make us all want to return each week.”
Maggie Barrow and Lilly Branka talked about their RISE project with The Jumbos.
“Every Sunday morning for about five weeks, nine of us came to Rivers to skate with kids and adults who had varying disabilities for two hours with a program called The Jumbos,” said Lilly. “The first hour was with older kids who needed less assistance and were frankly extremely talented at playing hockey. The second hour we were each paired with a child or adult who needed one-on-one assistance and motivation to get through the drills.”
“Over the course of these two hours we would skate with them, pass around with them and also just talk,” added Maggie. “From this experience, we learned that we are all very fortunate to be able to play our favorite sport with such ease. On top of that, we also learned how to work with kids and adults with varying disabilities and most importantly how to build friendships with them! Overall, this was an eye-opening experience and it made it enjoyable to get up early every Sunday morning to skate with these amazing people.”
Addy Vettel and Sofia Buckle spoke about their project with One Night Out, and Sara Bargamian ’18 and Stephanie Dailey ’19 ended the breakfast by telling how they’ve extended their RISE involvement with Family Promise Metrowest by founding a Family Promise service club at Rivers. Sara and Stephanie received a Community Service Award from the Parent Independent School Network in recognition of their long-term commitment to Family Promise.
Students then split into groups to volunteer at a number of local service sites, including Creative Start, the Michael Lisnow Respite Center, Shillman House, Family Promise Metrowest, New Life Furnishings, Natick Organic Farm, and Casa Myrna.
Returning to Rivers for lunch, students heard about the prevalence of hunger in Massachusetts from representative of End Hunger Northeast. Joining the sophomores for lunch were more than a dozen senior citizens who have been participating throughout the spring in Rivers’ Sages & Seekers program. After lunch the two groups worked together to package thousands of meals which were distributed by End Hunger at locations throughout the Middlesex County area.