Ridgefield Academy students give back to the local community throughout the school year, and the holiday season offers many additional opportunities including recent food and toy drives, volunteer gift wrapping, and an annual concert to benefit Ability Beyond.

“We strive to help our students further understand the world around and how we can all make a difference,” said Service Learning Coordinator Jessica Brooks. We work with organizations in our area so that students can have hands-on experiences with those in need.

“We then bring the experience back to the classrooms and further discuss the programs to help our students get a deeper and more meaningful experience and how they can continue to do good.”

This past November, fourth grader rallied the RA community to help stock the shelves of the Ridgefield Food Pantry through a Thanksgiving Day food drive.

On the day of the big delivery to the food pantry, students created an assembly line to bring the boxes from the van to the donation center.

Much to the amazement of Director of Social Services Tony Phillips, the food filled the shelves — and then it filled the tables, chairs and floor, too. This service learning project challenged the students to understand the issues surrounding food insecurity in their local town, as well as pinpoint a solution.

Wanting to share the magic, joy, and love of the holiday season, RA students — under the guidance Brooks — launched a new, unwrapped Holiday Toy Drive in early December.

Toys were collected and donated to benefit the families served by Family & Children’s Aid in Danbury, as well as Toys for Tots in Ridgefield.

Service Learning intentionally takes students and their families off campus and into the community. RA volunteers were on-site at Family & Children’s Aid to help them collect and sort the toys they received from their Danbury toy drive.

This past weekend, students and their families raised money for Habitat for Humanity by wrapping gifts for holiday shoppers at the Danbury Fair Mall.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to visit Family and Children's Aid with my own family. We had the chance to see where our donations were going and help to sort the toys to be given out. It was a great way for us to spend time as a family as well as give back to this amazing resource that does so much for our community,” said Head of Preschool & Lower School Alison O’Callaghan.

The last holiday event was the traditional holiday concert hosted by the school’s chorus.

Directed by Middle & Upper School chorus and drama teacher Debbi Curry, students lit up Hope Hall with a variety of traditional and pop holiday songs to a spirited audience on Dec. 18.

Over 30 guests from Ability Beyond were delighted by the performance of “Jambo — Hakuna Matata,” “Light the Candles of Hanukkah,” “Rudolph,” and of course, Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

“The concert is just a wonderful way for our students to share their love of music with others in the community and to use their gifts to uplift their audience in a powerful way,” said Curry.