Reflections on the first Riley’s Way Chapter

By: Hattie Shapard, Brearley Chapter Co-Chair & Call For Kindness Fellow (2021)

What is a Riley’s Way Chapter? 

The Riley’s Way Chapter program is the foundation’s newest program developed by Campbell Arnone with the support of the Riley’s Way staff, community, and Chapter members. A Riley’s Way Chapter brings together a group of young changemakers within a high school with the goal of tackling a social justice issue in collaboration with a community-based partner, through the lens of kindness and empathy. The Brearley Riley’s Way Chapter is entirely student-led–each student holds a leadership position and assists in the planning and execution of our meetings and programming. In our bi-weekly meetings, we strive to create meaningful connections with each other and cultivate leadership skills. Through regular discussions, we unpack social issues in our community and how to engage in social justice work with integrity and compassion.

The story of the Chapter’s founding

Who am I?

I am a rising senior at The Brearley School. I am Co-Chair of the Brearley Riley’s Way Chapter and have been a part of the Chapter since its establishment. I am also a 2021 Call for Kindness Fellow through my non-profit the Amity Program which increases intergenerational and direct programming for older adults. I found Riley’s Way through Stephanie Dore as she recommended my application for the Call for Kindness. After becoming a Call For Kindness Fellow, I became more acquainted with the Riley’s Way values and community and quickly found my values aligned with the mission of Riley’s Way. As an intern this summer, I worked to refine and build out the Brearley Chapter’s model as well as strengthen the Chapter’s relationship with BronxWorks. Additionally, I supported the Browning School in its development of the first all-boys Riley’s Way Chapter. Through both of these projects, I am able to continue to solidify the legacy of the new Chapter model at Brearley and beyond.

Contemplation on the first year as a chapter

During my time reviewing the Chapter model, I analyzed what we had accomplished and what could be improved upon following the inaugural year. I felt that we achieved inter-grade connection within the Brearley community and set the foundation for a service-based partnership with BronxWorks. We will be supporting BronxWorks’ Youth Food Justice Corps which works to improve healthy food access and healthy eating knowledge in selected South Bronx neighborhoods through youth-led action. Centering the Chapter around our partnership with BronxWorks allowed for meaningful discussions to be paired with action. In the next school year, the Chapter will focus on making discussions more active and engaging so that students feel motivated and empowered at the end of each meeting. The Chapter model reinforced my belief that discussion and activity as a group create strong connections within communities which are necessary for leadership to blossom.

Goals for the Chapter in the upcoming school year

I look forward to creating greater space for students to lead meetings (other than the student Co-Chairs), having more active discussions, and deepening the connection between members of the Chapter. In order to achieve these goals the school year will begin by focusing on recruitment so that the Brearley students have an opportunity to be part of the Riley’s Way Community through our Chapter. Riley’s Way has allowed me to highlight values within myself that are sometimes hard to communicate in a competitive school environment and I would love to have more Brearley students find the values of kindness and empathy within them. Additionally, as a student who used to be very reserved, I know that providing an environment for even the quietest people’s voices to be heard is valuable, and hope that the Riley’s Way Brearley Chapter will continue to be a space comfortable for everyone to have a voice. Another part of the Chapter that I am most excited about is growing our partnership with BronxWorks. The framework for the Chapter model has been set and can now be expanded upon.

I am honored to be Co-Chair of the Brearley Chapter for the 2022 – 2023 school year; since this year will be both a legacy and a new beginning.