One of the most meaningful experiences of the eighth grade year takes place about 40 miles south of campus. Over three successive Fridays, one third of our eighth grade class heads into NYC to take part in YSOP (Youth Service Opportunities Project). This organization creates a real-world volunteer experience for our students working with some of the neediest New Yorkers. More than that, it provides a genuine opportunity for interaction with the homeless and the hungry and offers reflection time to frame their volunteer experience.
So often our children come back changed from this event. Before their trip into the city, many of the students are a little apprehensive about meeting people whose experiences in life are so different from their own. During the two days with YSOP, they are often surprised by the reality of what individuals who are homeless or hungry face every day—how it is even more different from their own lives than they could have imagined—but they are also surprised by the moments of connection, the things they share in common with those they meet: being fans of the same sports team, swapping stories about school, talking about their siblings. Our students gain perspective, empathy, and understanding—and in the process become deeper young adults. They see in a new way how fortunate they are, and they also experience the sense of joy that comes from being useful—from giving their time and energy and heart in service.
Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School