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York Country Day School: Where education and empathy meet, a community grows.
Posted 05/11/2017 08:12AM

Imagine it's morning and you're strolling across campus, sunlight streaming through a wall of windows as students arrive back at school and come inside.

Here, you'll see eager elementary students rushing off to robotics class, after high-fives from their older student mentors. Here, freshmen await with excitement today's group college visit with their classmates and advisor.

Someone's story is going on the bulletin board now — she was just "caught being kind."

This is York Country Day School, an independent, college preparatory school in Spring Garden Township.

It's a place where caring faculty implement a rigorous curriculum aimed always at advancing each child's intellectual and personal truth; where cutting-edge teaching and technology ignite and kindle passions for learning; where a tight-knit community means knowing not only each child's academic strengths and struggles but also their favorite lunch foods.

"Our faculty invest time and heart into each student-teacher relationship," says YCDS Head of School Dr. Christine Heine. "YCDS is committed to students feeling that they belong, that they are known, and that they add tremendous value to our community."

'Every child has a voice'

The story starts with words on a page. Lower School students first learn the writing process in English class, and each creates a fictional story.

But from there at YCDS, the lesson grows. Students then take their stories to Digital Media class, creating unique illustrations for their new book and then typing the text into digital form with iMovie. Garage Band software is then used to add music, creating a finished piece that stretches across traditional disciplines and turns into a vibrant, real-world product.

"The end result in this curriculum is that students gain experience in an array of areas," said Jamie McKim, teacher and Assistant Head of the Lower School. "Not only are the finished projects well-rounded, the student preparation and process is thorough and solid."

Lower School students are exposed to robotics as early as Pre-K and begin learning how to type in kindergarten. They're immersed in technology and encouraged to connect different activities.

Next-generation science kits help young students explore their world as they investigate air, weather, erosion, and more, testing hypotheses in a nurturing environment where they quickly learn that "fail" now means something entirely new —the first attempt in learning.

In small classes, children are known to each of their teachers and their peers. Their ideas are valued.

"York Country Day School takes the time to get to know our students, embrace their talents and support their struggles," McKim said. "Every child has a voice, and every learner gets an individualized plan for academic, social, and emotional success."


One community

Where education and empathy meet, a community grows. At YCDS, the focus on inclusion and a cross-graded community permeates both the curriculum and life outside the classroom.

The Greyhound Club works to promote positivity and pride school-wide, pairing older students with Lower School buddies who they meet with throughout the year. The pairs hold joint show-and-tells, create greeting cards together for residents of local nursing homes, and often meet for lunch or outside to play during free time.

Seniors share fist bumps with second-graders, walking down the hall.

"I have the opportunity here to focus on the whole child: academic, social, and emotional," said English teacher and Dean of Students Molly Wertz. "One of my main focuses always is community-building."

That opportunity will expand with the implementation of a peer mediation program in the Middle and Upper Schools. Trained student mediators will handle conflict resolution on key teen issues such as gossip or hurt feelings. With faculty support, they'll work toward creative, personalized solutions.

Because at YCDS, school is more than grades and the grind of day to day — it's family.

'The place where they belong'

College looms, and a family searches for the best way to tell one young person's story, to leverage twelve-plus years of personal growth into just the right, bright future.

It's why the college visits start in ninth grade at YCDS. Students travel together to Millersville University and Franklin and Marshall College to get the lay of the land and to study the differences between larger and smaller institutions.

Sophomore year brings a day at York College of Pennsylvania. Students eat in the cafeteria and seek out the services available: campus safety; counseling; the registrar. As juniors, they visit Shippensburg University and Gettysburg College to hone their knowledge.

Along the way, students and their families meet regularly with a YCDS faculty member who can point them toward valuable resources and help guide the process.

"It's about finding the right fit each time for the student and the family," said Jake Doll, director of college counseling and Assistant Head of the Upper School. "It's about ending up at the place where they belong."

From mock interviews to test prep to college application coaching, students stay ahead of the demands of what can typically be a stressful time. They prepare with confidence for the next chapter.

"Every family, every story is different," Doll said. "I just enjoy helping and seeing it play out each time and thinking about what great things lie ahead for these students."


At our best together

On the wood-plank floor of a school gym, a teacher sits beside a large vinyl parachute. Quiet giggles echo off the walls, the faces of 3-year-olds reflected in the basketball court shine. Soon, they rise together, lifting the edges of the parachute and laughing out loud as it billows above them.

The lesson at that age is a simple one, YCDS physical education teacher Ken Klenk said, but one that endures. When we work together, big things happen.

That sense of purpose – that promise – is at the heart of a YCDS education.

It's what drives a dedicated faculty to constantly innovate and improve. It's what elevates York Country Day School students above expectations, just as high as their dreams will carry them.

"Our community works together to help our students recognize their strengths, enhance their confidence, and realize their intellectual promise," Heine says. "Our work isn't easy, but it is a joy. We are so fortunate to take part in helping our students along their journey and watching their confidence grow as they evolve as young academicians and civic-minded leaders."

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