Ridgefield Academy's Grade 7 and Prospector Theater: The Importance of Making a Difference

Service Learning is an integral part of the curriculum at Ridgefield Academy and builds character development. It teaches students to be thankful for what they have, to empathize with others and to develop a sense of civic responsibility. This results in students being able to see different perspectives. Additionally, they develop confidence and a sense of empowerment, as they discover they can have a lasting impact on others.

One Service Learning program RA has established is with the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield. The Prospector is dedicated to providing meaningful employment to people with disabilities through the operation of a first-run movie theater. Approximately 70% of Prospector employees (Prospects) identify with a disability but are given the opportunity to showcase their talents.

For the last several years, RA’s Grade 7 students have partnered with the Prospects and established very special relationships. The program consists of three rotating visits during the year, beginning in the fall at the Prospector Theater. That first meeting is one of introductions and getting to know one another. It is also an opportunity for RA students get a behind the scenes view of how the theater helps its Prospects become independent workers in real life situations. In small group exercises, RA students concentrate on sensory activities and how they would cope if they couldn’t see or hear – things that are taken for granted every day. This translates into a lesson in empathy and understanding differences in others.

During the second visit to RA, students were excited to show Prospects around campus. The relationship building continued with a tour, lunch and group activities. During this visit, Prospector Director of Research and Development Mike “Munchie” Santini couldn’t have put it any better when he said, “Ridgefield Academy has been with us since day one, and for the last five years the relationship we have built with RA is super important. We love it when RA students come with their families to see a movie at the Prospector because they get a behind the scenes view of how they are helping people with disabilities. Empathy is a huge part of any school program and the human connection between our Prospects and RA students is very special.” The Prospects seem to feel the same way as one of the Prospects named Emily said, “"I love everything about RA! The kids are always so wonderful! It's so fun seeing the students again and fun when I see them at the theater!"

Grade 7 students held a fundraiser to help continue the Prospector mission helping Prospects showcase their amazing talents through education, engagement and employment. RA presented a check for over $600 during their last visit to the Prospector earlier this month.

RA’s Service Learning program teaches its students that regardless of our differences, we are all people and it is the human connection that leaves a lasting impact. RA students experience how they can make a huge difference in the lives others as well as their own.



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