New Project

Building Bridges

Hannah Liu & Lydia Palmer

New York

Building Bridges is a partnership program between the Nightingale-Bamford School and the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem. It is designed to strengthen and enhance the existing relationship between the two institutions through joint community service initiatives by partnering Nightingale eighth graders with Sisulu-Walker fifth graders. They will also partner Sisulu-Walker fifth graders with Nightingale kindergarteners for a read aloud program. They plan to use the $1,000 for transportation and materials.

Updates from Lydia and Hannah

February, 2020
This past January, Hannah and I executed the first component of our project Building Bridges, for which we won a Call for Kindness grant. Building Bridges is a service learning program that aims to bring together students from the Nightingale-Bamford School and the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem in community engagement efforts that benefit our shared neighborhood of the Upper East Side and East Harlem. To that end, each fifth grader from Sisulu-Walker was paired with two ninth graders from Nightingale, and together in these groups the students made sandwiches, dessert bags, and cards for patrons of the All Souls Soup Kitchen’s weekly Friday luncheon. Students made over 300 sandwiches and dessert bags, each with a card wishing the diner a happy Friday. As these students worked together in a common act of kindness, they easily bonded with each other: when it came time to say goodbye after about an hour of programming, students gave each other hugs and were excited about the prospect of seeing each other again soon. The fifth graders and ninth graders will come together again in May, when they will volunteer with the Central Park Conservancy in Central Park. Until then, the two grades will keep in touch with one another through Skype calls, emails, and letters.

Another component of our project entails bringing together Sisulu-Walker fifth graders and Nightingale kindergarteners. On January 23rd, Sisulu-Walker students came to Nightingale as part of Sisulu’s school-wide Community Service Day, and they read aloud to the kindergartners for 30 minutes. The students brought books of their choosing and had prepared engaging discussion questions about their book to ask their Nightingale buddy. It was here that both the kindergarteners and fifth graders were able to build connections with one another. The Sisulu fifth graders served as respectful and kind role models in taking the time out of their day to help out the Kindergarteners, exemplifying the core beliefs of Riley's Way. Additionally, we loved watching the Sisulu-Walker students practicing their leadership skills, as they are usually on the receiving end of tutoring from older Nightingale students.

July, 2019
Our Call for Kindness project, Building Bridges, aims to strengthen and enhance the existing relationship between the Nightingale-Bamford School and the Sisulu-Walker Charter School through joint community engagement initiatives.

We have both volunteered as tutors at Sisulu-Walker for the past two years. Sisulu-Walker is a community that not only values academic excellence but also kindness and compassion. Students at Sisulu-Walker are enthusiastic about their learning and approach their schoolwork and friendships with a positive attitude. Spending time with Sisulu-Walker students has been such a great experience for us both, and we wanted to create a program in which more students from Nightingale and Sisulu-Walker could connect with each other. Our goals for the program are twofold: to foster empathetic and kind leaders who can effectively incite change and to foster meaningful friendships between students of the two schools. As of right now, we have
coordinated with the heads of the Lower and Middle Schools at Nightingale, as well as with the head of Sisulu-Walker, Ms. Haynes. We are currently figuring out logistics, such as transportation and exact dates for the program next year. We are so excited to see that Building Bridges is taking shape!

There are two parts to Building Bridges. The first is a program in which every Nightingale eighth grader will be paired with a Sisulu fifth grader in a mentor-mentee relationship. Eighth and fifth grades are both years in which students approach major transitions in their lives: fifth graders will begin middle school, and eighth graders will begin high school. This program will serve to build lasting relationships between the fifth and eighth grade students as they navigate important crossroads. Partners can encourage and help one another as they each prepare for middle and high school respectively. The program will entail three days of community engagement in the East Harlem Neighborhood, in the vicinity of both Nightingale and Sisulu-Walker. The days will occur every few months, such that students’ friendships may grow over the course of the year. These community service days will provide a collaborative setting in which their relationships
can flourish.

In addition to community engagement days, we hope to continue to build bridges between Nightingale and Sisulu-Walker by establishing a program between Sisulu-Walker fifth graders and Nightingale kindergartners. For three separate days throughout the school year, Sisulu-Walker fifth graders will come to Nightingale and read aloud to the kindergarteners. Students will be in the same pairs for each of the three days, so a relationship can develop between them. Through this program, Sisulu-Walker students will engage with the Nightingale community, strengthen their leadership skills, and serve as role-models for the kindergartners. Both components of Building Bridges encourage students to create lasting, meaningful
relationships with each other and their communities. In forming such relationships, students will better understand what it means to be kind and will learn to treat everyone as a friend.

In this program, students will be urged to take initiative, practice their leadership skills, and work together. Students from Nightingale and Sisulu-Walker will learn to trust one another, thus improving their communication skills and their capabilities to empathize. Students will work together towards a common goal: helping their community. With a common goal, students will not only make connections with their community but also with each other. By giving students the opportunity to help others, we aim to expand their perspectives and encourage them to demonstrate kindness at any opportunity. Through their interactions with each other and their community, students will be better able to understand different people of diverse backgrounds and, therefore, better able to exemplify the cardinal goal of Riley’s Way: spreading empathy and kindness.

With the grant, we will be able to rent school busses and purchase materials for sandwiches, which we will deliver to The New York Common Pantry. Our ultimate mission is to create a long-term relationship between Nightingale and Sisulu-Walker, and our $1,000 grant will allow the program to take shape in its first year.