Students Use PA and Social Grants to Pursue Unique Interests

The student body at Riverdale has a truly diverse range of interests. Riverdale offers many extra-curricular activities, from acapella to robotics to sketch comedy, but what if one wished to explore their passions in a personal, more customized way? This is where Social Change Grants and PA Summer Grants come into play. These programs serve as opportunities for students to pursue their interests in ways that they would not otherwise be able to at school; by providing them with the money they need to fund their creative ideas.

These opportunities are extremely valuable to students because they are able to express their individuality and gain experience to help deepen their understanding and involvement in a specific field. With their grants, students have done everything from creating massive murals, to building drones, and even professionally recording music.

If a student's passion is social activism, then the Social Change grant program is a great way to get involved. It offers grants specifically focused on promoting social change. The grant serves as an opportunity for students to identify an issue in their community and present a reasonable solution to help improve it. All funds for this program were collected by members of the class of 1959. They wanted to donate a significant amount of money specifically to help promote student activism around the Riverdale community. Each year about four social grants are awarded.

Eighth grade student Michelle Wen is passionate about mental health and wanted to give students the chance to express themselves regularly. She presented her idea to a board of faculty and alumni and was granted money to put together what many students now know as the emotions board. Currently, it hangs right outside the cafeteria next to the locker area. This board allows students to anonymously write down their feelings and thoughts without the fear of being judged. Wen’s goal was to help “make Riverdale a safer environment for everyone,” she said.

If students want money to complete a project that does not relate to social change, PA Summer Grants provide this opportunity. These grants are sponsored by the Parents Association, and allow students to complete projects over the summer. Interested students submit an application to the Parents Association and, if selected, can present their idea in front of a board of parents and teachers who will then decide what kind of supplies and how much money they need to start their project. On average, 8 to 12 grants are given out each year and while there is no limit to the topics this grant can cover, the money cannot be used to pay tuition for an existing class or program.

Ms. Choi, Dean of the Class of 2019, works closely with the PA Summer Grant Program by helping students apply for their grants. The philosophy behind the program is to “give students the resources they need to do something they have always wanted to outside the realm of schoolwork,” said Choi. She explained that the project does not have to relate to Riverdale at all and that the variety in projects is only limited by the imagination of the students.

Senior Matthew Weinberger has been involved with these Summer Grants since he was an eighth grade student, and his corresponding outside interests are innumerable. Past grants he has received have gone towards materials for building his own computer and a handful of photography projects. With his most recent grant, he was able to buy studio lights to use for photo shoots, and he is currently in the process of producing a book showcasing his photography. Weinberger is very appreciative of the Grant Program and said that “the opportunity to pursue an idea which I have great interest in is a great gift which I appreciate immensely.” He continued on to say that there is a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that someone believes in the ideas you have enough to give you funds to pursue them and finds this to be “a great motivational factor towards [his] goals.”

To develop her love of  filmmaking, Junior Maddie Van Beek also worked with the PA Grant Program. She applied for a grant to create a short film using professional equipment. She was granted money to rent studio space and resources and cover the cost of transportation and food for the hired actors. This experience was special for Van Beek because she would not have otherwise had the opportunity to produce something on such a professional level with real actors in a studio environment. “My grant helped me get more connected with the film and theater community and make a quality video to add to my portfolio,” she said.

For those passionate about any topic and wishes to pursue it further, Riverdale offers many opportunities, you just have to take advantage of them.

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