Reflecting on my Experience Working with Riley’s Way: The Power of Kindness

By: Campbell Arnone, Ambassador

My name is Campbell Arnone, and I am a senior at the Brearley School in New York City. When I first learned about Riley’s Way, I was immediately drawn to their values of kindness, empathy, leadership, and connection-making, and their work — especially the Council program, as I think it so vital to practice kindness and empathy in school environments to create a supportive community that can help each other navigate the stresses of high school. I reached out both to Riley’s Way and administrators at my school in the hopes of creating a Council at Brearley, and becoming a part of the Riley’s Way community. My hopes were dashed by my school’s extracurricular policies and the pandemic. That is, until early fall of my Junior year, when Riley’s Way reached out to me and welcomed me into the community as an Ambassador. My Ambassadorship fulfilled both my wishes to join the Riley’s Way community, and to create a Brearley Council, as my project focused on finding a way to establish that Council, despite the obstacles. I spent the year interviewing students, teachers, and Riley’s Way staff involved in the Council program in order to re-evaluate the current Council model. Based on all the information I gathered in these meetings, and the curriculum I reviewed, I created a new Council Chapter model. I worked with Riley’s Way this summer as an Intern, continuing to develop the new Council model and taking the steps to pilot this new model at my school this coming year.

My experience working at Riley’s Way has been incredibly transformative. I have learned so much about the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead through Riley’s Way.

There is such a strong atmosphere of support and connection at Riley’s Way, as each member of the community brings an open, passionate, and kind energy to their work and interactions. I first discovered this during my interviews with students, teachers, and staff at Riley’s Way, when I was instantly met with warmth and kindness by each interviewee. They thanked ME for conducting these interviews when they were the ones taking the time to help me with my project, even though they had never met me before. I was shocked by how open, real, and honest each of my conversations were. In these interviews, there were none of the typical boundaries you often find in first introductions. Instead, everyone created bridges through kindness, and I felt instantly connected to the Riley’s Way community.

This was my first ever internship and my first time working in a professional setting, so I did not really know what to expect. I imagined I would find the same formality and impersonality I had encountered in other professional settings, like school, and I could not have been more wrong. Instead, I entered an environment that encourages authenticity, as everyone at Riley’s Way genuinely cares about who you are, not just the work you can do. Each member of the community puts their realest energy into their work, which is part of what makes Riley’s Way’s work so meaningful and impactful. I think this authentic environment is also part of what makes our community truly connected, as we come to know and appreciate one another by being real with each other.

The kind, authentic, and connected community at Riley’s Way has inspired me to always strive to extend warmth and kindness to others (even strangers!), and to always be true to myself. I carry parts of Riley’s Way with me wherever I go – into my relationships with family, friends, teachers, strangers, and even myself. I have begun to perform at least one intentional act of kindness for someone else and for myself everyday. Riley’s Way has given me a new way of viewing the world through the lens of kindness and empathy, and I am forever grateful for that beautiful gift.