Ridgewood School receives Project Woman Purple Ribbon Award

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Students of Springfield’s Ridgewood School got a lesson in giving and receiving on Wednesday afternoon, benefiting them and their community.

The school received Project Woman’s annual Purple Ribbon Award, given to a group or individual for volunteerism or service that helps the organization’s mission of providing services to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, in a ceremony at Courtyard by Marriott’s ballroom.

Ridgewood students and staff were also surprised with an additional honor – an Ohio House of Representatives Commendation, given through the help of Ohio Representative Kyle Koehler.

In the spirit of the occasion, the school in turn presented Project Woman a financial donation of $1,000.

Having the Purple Ribbon Award ceremony back after two years off due to the pandemic and having a school as a recipient was twice as rewarding for Laura Baxter, Project Woman executive director.

She’s seen Ridgewood’s eight-year effort in supporting Project Woman grow yearly.

“It has gotten more creative. They involve the families and put their sweat into it,” said Baxter.

Ridgewood students are expected to do 30 hours of community service. Teacher and student council advisor Dan Metzger was very receptive to supporting Project Woman and gratified to see the way the students have found fresh angles.

“Each year we’ve built on what we started. The kids are always finding new ways to expand it,” Metzger said.

Their efforts have included volunteering at Project Woman’s shelters; doing an annual pie sale as a fundraiser; bake sales at school plays; a donation drive to collect items needed.

And though the seventh- and eighth-grade students are the leaders, a third-grader was inspired by their leadership to pitch in by collecting books and putting bags together to donate to children.

“Most people affected by domestic abuse leave everything behind and these help with that,” said Baxter. “It’s students inspiring other students. That’s what will bring long-term change to our community.”

Student council president Mahed Rizvi said besides the amazing feeling of helping others, being able to do this with friends also makes it fun and shows Project Woman’s clients that others care.

Aliya Ranginwala, head of Ridgewood School, credited Metzger with helping service hours reach new levels, taking pride in many students exceeding the service hour minimum of 30 by reaching 100 to 200 hours in some cases.

“This fits our mission, vision and values, and the passion Dan has is instilled in our kids since character education fits in our stewardship,” said Ranginwala.

Ridgewood students also got to shine at the ceremony with the band and choir performing for the audience, which included school staff, board members and family members and people supporting Project Woman.

Bernadette Rieger of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network spoke on the importance of programs like Project Woman.

Baxter fought back tears in addressing the audience, conveying what these efforts mean to the organization’s mission, saying her preferred spelling of the word community starts with a capital U.

“We rely on you uniting with us. This is a community full of hope and this award is about that so we are a better community and we honor the students of Ridgewood today for that,” she said.

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