Riviera Ridge School Builds Empathy Through Service Learning

Riviera Ridge School Builds Empathy Through Service Learning
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Source: Riviera Ridge School

“Purpose Beyond Self” is one of The Riviera Ridge School’s Core Values, and they are demonstrating that with a variety of service projects for students of all ages. As part of an annual fall initiative, students in the Middle School Elective Service Brigade run a service drive. This year, students in Service Brigade researched various non-profits and chose to support PATH of Santa Barbara. PATH works with unhoused individuals and families in Santa Barbara to help them with housing, food, and stabilization services. For weeks students collected non-perishable food to create Thanksgiving baskets for families in need. By Thanksgiving break, 1,136 food items were collected, filling up 100 baskets.

"Service Brigade students learn about advocacy and the fulfillment that comes from working towards a goal that is bigger than themselves,” Rebecca Ryser, Middle School Division Coordinator and Service Brigade Advisor, said. “Through partnering with local nonprofits, students learn about the very real needs of our community. The process of creating a plan and presenting it to their peers, and seeing the results of their hard work builds confidence and public speaking skills as well.”

In their signature Kaleidoscope program, students from Junior Kindergarten all the way to 8th grade experience and study the traditions and values of world religions and diverse cultures through a global and unifying perspective. The common denominator of service to others becomes clear, and students are able to exercise this idea in their 6th grade Service Learning Class. Students learn about what it means to be a social entrepreneur and create their own Service in Action projects. Projects have ranged from organizing beach clean-ups, to creating care packages for homeless people, to filming a documentary to raise awareness and funds for medical research.

“Our vision for the Riviera Ridge School is to empower individual potential, inspire purpose beyond self, and cultivate social responsibility,” Chris Broderick, Head of School explained. “These are not simply words on our website, it’s an ethos lived out in our curriculum, in our actions, and in what we teach and model for our children each day.” 

Currently, students are in the midst of a Riviera Ridge School holiday tradition — the holiday Adopt-a-Family project. Each year during the holiday season, the school community works together to provide gifts for a family in need. This year they have partnered with Casa Pacifica. Casa Pacifica offers adolescent and family services from Camarillo to Santa Maria for victims of abuse and neglect, substance abuse, homelessness and other behavioral health issues. These are families that desperately need support in the form of basic items that offer comfort or security. 

Each grade is assigned a Family Basket and students and families band together to bring in items to make Christmas special for families in need. 

“The middle school years are so incredibly formative. Exposing students to the power of collective action in service of others, and the feeling of fulfillment that goes along with that at such a young age will hopefully empower them to act with a generous spirit their whole lives,” Broderick said.

At Riviera Ridge School, we provide student-centered, individualized learning in a joyful and nurturing community, inspiring academic excellence and valuing difference. The educational vision for each Riviera Ridge graduate is to empower individual potential, inspire purpose beyond self, and cultivate social responsibility as they prepare for high school and beyond. 

For more information, email info@rivieraridge.org or call 805-569-1811 ext. 131.

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