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Iona Preparatory Students Take Service to the Next Level, Developing Long-term Advocacy Projects

Iona Preparatory School recently hosted its first-ever Advocacy Fair, connecting students with over a dozen nonprofit organizations and providing an opportunity not just for students to volunteer, but to take the lead on key advocacy initiatives for the year.

“At Iona Prep, our mission is to develop young men into moral and ethical leaders who are dedicated to Christian service, and what better way to foster those values than to engage students in ongoing advocacy projects that they are passionate about,” said Brother Thomas Leto, CFC, Ed.D, President of Iona Preparatory. “When you set expectations higher, students rise to excel. I can’t wait to see what our students will do.”

Advocacy and service, staples of an Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Education, have always been focal points of the Iona Preparatory experience. In freshman year, students begin their 100-hour Christian Service requirement with the opportunity to volunteer both locally and abroad, keeping a digital portfolio of their service projects along the way. As part of the evolution of its Christian Service program, Iona Prep upperclassmen are being challenged even further to develop long-term Advocacy Projects that tackle the social justice issues at the heart of their service efforts.

Joseph Riordan, an Iona Preparatory junior from Bronxville, will continue advocating on behalf of the Edmund Rice Camp Society, as he has since freshmen year, as well as developing a new Advocacy Project with Harlem Lacrosse. He said he was drawn to these causes because each provides underprivileged students with fun experiences and academic support.

“We try to give at-risk youth an education to do well in class, in addition to the opportunity to get off the streets while playing lacrosse. Since the equipment can be expensive, donating money and gear is a huge contribution toward teaching kids how to improve their skill set and build their confidence,” he said.

Allen Raja, an Iona Preparatory junior from the Bronx, is interested in an Advocacy Project with Songcatchers in New Rochelle. He said he was drawn to this cause because of his musical background.

“Songcatchers’ mission is to provide an affordable music education to kids, which is something I’ve taken to heart, especially since I enrolled at Iona Prep. I already know how to play the piano, guitar, ukulele, and am now learning to play the harp; so hopefully, I have plenty of chances to teach as a volunteer,” he said.

Nationally, teenagers continue to have a relatively high volunteer rate of 26 percent, according to the 2015 Current Population Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Volunteers provided 8.1 billion hours of service in 2009, which has an estimated economic impact of $169 billion. Moreover, volunteering has been found to be good for one’s physical and mental health, education and employment opportunities.

At the Iona Preparatory Advocacy Fair, nonprofits from throughout the region set up display tables and discussed opportunities with the junior class. Participating organizations included Neighbor to Neighbor, The Carver Center, Backyard Sports, Lifting Up Westchester, Part of the Solution (POTS), Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Volunteer New York!, Adopt-a-Dog, Feeding Westchester, My Sister’s Place, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and The Sharing Shelf, among others. The day prior, the school hosted Jessica Dewhurst, executive director of The Justice Desk in South Africa, who spoke with upperclassmen and the Human Rights Club about how the global defense of human rights is a key element in addressing pervasive injustices.

“Over the course of the year, our boys have the opportunity to work with more than 85 local organizations on an almost weekly basis, in addition to more than 100 service immersion openings domestically and internationally” said Assistant Director for Campus Ministry Sean D’Alfonso. “While it’s important for them to learn the importance of getting involved and giving back to their communities through service, our Advocacy Fair is about them taking the next step in understanding why those organizations do what they do and how we, as a society, can begin to address some of those social justice issues at their core.”

Interested in learning more about the Iona Prep difference? Open Houses for prospective Upper School students and parents will be held Sunday, October 21, from 12-3 p.m. or Wednesday, October 24, from 6-8 p.m., while the Lower School Open House will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25, from 6-8 p.m. for grades PK-4-8. Learn more at or RSVP at