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Tappan Hall students, volunteers "RISE" to the occasion
Tappan Hill students, volunteers collaborate to show appreciation to first responders
Educators at Tappan Hill School in Tarrytown have partnered this summer with Volunteer New York!'s RISE Program to provide a unique and mutually beneficial experience for volunteers and Southern Westchester BOCES students alike.
For six weeks, a half-dozen participants in Volunteer New York!’s RISE program have worked with Tappan Hill students with multiple disabilities on a project to create up to 80 gift bags. RISE stands for Readiness through Integrated Service Engagement.
The gift bags will be presented to members of Tarrytown’s police and fire departments at an event at the school on Aug. 7. The hand-crafted candy bags are a show of appreciation for the support and service provided to the school by first responders all year-round. That includes assistance with emergency drills as well as safety events with students and a fire department open house at the school.
RISE program participants are adults with developmental disabilities who are gaining valuable volunteer experience that will give them workplace skills and make them more valuable to potential employers.
This is the first vocational project with a community organization for Tappan Hill’s multiply disabled program, in which students are often medically fragile and rely on assistive devices for communication and mobility.
This unique partnership reflects the value SWBOCES places on collaboration and the desire to build community partnerships, said Tappan Hill Principal Phyllis Rizzi.
“This will give them the skills they need to go forth into the world of work,” Rizzi said. “This was a real team effort. Their staff are so committed and compassionate.”
On a recent morning, the group was hard at work, stuffing candy into paper treat bags stamped with hand-made designs and patterns. Into each bag went a thank you note.
“Thank you for: Being a “Lifesaver! Your commitMINT to keeping our community safe! Being JOLLY and keeping a smile as you do your job! Handling all those STICKY situations!”
On the flip side the recipient is encouraged to take a selfie and tweet it to @volunteernynow with the hashtag #RISE.
Samantha, one of the RISE participants, said she already gave one of the candy bags to a family friend who is a police officer. He thanked her on Facebook, she said, smiling widely.
“I like helping people,” Samantha said of her participation in the program. “Anything I can do for someone, I want to do it.”
Teacher Erroll Rivera reached out to Volunteer New York! in the fall when he was looking for ideas for a whole-school community project. That led to the summer program, which administrators are hopeful will develop into a long-term relationship.
The great thing, he said, is that a project like this allows his students to apply the skills they learn in class with genuine purpose and meaning.
Rivera said the challenge is always to find partners who can come to the school rather than the reverse.
“How can our school help the community, because we’re so limited in our opportunities to go out into the community,” he said. “How can we bring the community to us?”
Patti Colombo, Manager of Volunteer New York!'s RISE Program, said it was developed to provide special support to ensure successful and positive experiences through integrated volunteer projects in the community.
"The successful launch of this pilot program with the Tappan Hill School is a great example of what the RISE program can do with strong partners committed to inclusivity,” said Colombo. “It was a chance for individuals with IDDs to be role models for students who are about to graduate, while developing their own leadership skills. And a chance for the Tappan Hill students to socialize and learn from their older peers. We’re looking to see how we can continue this type of community impact through the regular school year.”
About Tappan Hill School
Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Special Services has operated programs at the Tappan Hill School in the Tarrytown School District since the 2015-16 school year. Programs there include the Communication and Academic Development Program, the Multiply Disabled Program and programs for students with autism spectrum disorders.
About Volunteer New York!
The core mission of Volunteer New York! is to inspire, mobilize, and equip individuals and groups to take positive action to address pressing challenges, support non-profits and improve the quality of life in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam. For more than 68 years the organization has encouraged adults to serve, youth to build character, families to bond, young professionals to lead, mature adults to share their wisdom and businesses to engage through volunteerism.
Volunteer New York! helped coordinate over 285,000 hours of service, which were devoted last year to over 500 nonprofits at a value of over $8.1 million. The Corporate Champions who strongly support the mission of Volunteer New York! include: Bunge Limited; MasterCard; PepsiCo; Regeneron; The Journal News & Lohud.com; Chubb; Con Edison; Empire City Casino; IBM; Keystone Property Group; K-LOVE Radio; M&T Bank; Morgan Stanley; Sterling National Bank; TD Bank; The Dannon Company; NewYork-Presbyterian; PCSB Bank; PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP; Robison Oil Corporation; The Affinity Group, LLC; Entergy; MAG Real Estate Advisors, Inc.; Pentegra Retirement Services; Reckson, a Division of SL Green Realty Corp.; RPW Group; The Westchester Bank; Westmed; and WhiffAway. With ongoing support from Westchester Community Foundation, Westchester County, Corporation for National & Community Service, and the New York State Commission on National and Community Service. Learn more about the RISE volunteer program at http://www.volunteernewyork.org/rise.