This I Believe – Mr. Asa Church

The following speech was given by Mr. Asa Church, to the middle and upper school, as part of a series of senior and faculty speeches. Additional speeches by Mrs. Odell and Mrs. Spangler can be found here and here


I believe… in you. I believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual as one special and important piece of a grand design. You are not an accident. And in so far as I have had the privilege of being a part of your life, I am extremely grateful.

This past August, 2017, I paused in the midst of a busy week to look up at the sun (not without protective glasses of course!) to watch one of the more awe inspiring natural phenomena on our planet: a total solar eclipse. This fantastic convergence of two celestial bodies had me holding my breath, and gushing about it afterward. It was a moment of awe, and a moment of humility.

Many of us worshiped in the temple of science, capital “S,” on that day. But the joke’s on us if we miss the forest for the trees. Such awe inspiring events in the natural world ultimately guide me to the mysteries of the supernatural world. And I see the hand of a greater purpose amidst all of life’s calculations, hypotheses, and datasets. It seemed to me that the greatest lesson of that day was a reminder of just how small we really are, and yet, how precious.

As a Jewish poet King David once wrote,

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
   the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
   human beings that you should care for them?

I am taken back to summer days at sleep-away camp, not far from here at French Creek State Park. Adolescence was at a fever pitch- camp crushes, pillow fights, and cabin raids. We thought we were at the center of the universe, like the whole planetary system revolved around us.

But on warm nights, we would lay out in the upper field under a blanket of stars, belted by the Milky Way and spell bound by ephemeral falling stars. We could feel how tiny we actually were. We could feel the rotation of earth and the dizzying sensation of perpetual falling. We could feel what it meant to love… and to be loved.

Just above the door of my classroom, to the right of the clock (fittingly), is a quote from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day.” She asks, as I ask each of you now: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I believe in you. And you should too.

YCDS Athletics Concussion Protocol

By Jim Mustard, Director of Facilities and Athletics, and Kersty Weaver, Athletic Trainer

What is concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body which causes the head and brain to move back and forth quickly. This movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching or damaging the brain cells. (CDC, 2015)


What are we doing to prevent concussions?

Though it can be hard to “prevent” an unexpected jolt to the head, we ARE taking preventative measures. Every contact sport athlete at YCDS takes the ImPACT Test prior to the start of their season. This test helps to create a baseline of your child’s cognitive functions (though it’s NOT an intelligence test) so that, should they sustain a concussion, we can compare their functioning post-injury to their functioning pre-injury. The ImPACT test is NOT a “full-clear, go-ahead” test, rather it isn’t the determining factor in whether or not your child can return to play post-concussion. It’s one tool in health care providers’ toolbox to help determine readiness.

What happens if a concussion is suspected?

If a concussion is suspected during practice or a game, your child cannot return to play the same day. This is a safety protocol which will be strictly enforced to ensure the safety and well-being of all student-athletes at YCDS. Once the athletic trainer has determined concussive symptoms to be present, your child will be referred either to their primary care physician or to one of Wellspan’s sports medicine physicians. Our team physician, Dr. Lavallee, has “Training Room” days where he will stop in and see athletes with injuries. If this day is not convenient to the injury, we can refer to several other locations so the athlete can be seen rapidly. Conversely,  you can schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care physician. After symptoms of the concussion have resolved and a physician has cleared your child to begin a return-to-play protocol, the athletic trainer works to return your child to play safely and successfully. Additionally, once symptoms resolve the athlete will retake the ImPACT test to help assess return to normal cognitive function. The YCDS Return-To-Play Protocol is as follows:

  • Step 1: Light aerobic activity, non-contact (Day 1)
  • Step 2: Sport specific activities, non-contact (Day 2)
  • Step 3: Sport specific activities and drills, non-contact (Day 3)
  • Step 4: Full contact drills with teammates (Day 4)
  • Step 5: Full practice and/or game participation

Through all of these steps, the athlete must remain symptom-free. Should any symptoms return, the athlete will drop back a step until symptoms resolve, and then they will begin progression again. Once all steps are completed successfully, the athlete will be cleared of their concussion.


A Note on the ImPACT Test:

ImPACT® (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the most widely used and most scientifically validated computerized concussion management tool available. ImPACT comes in two forms:

Baseline Test – Administered by a physician, nurse, athletic trainer, athletic director, or coach before the start of a sport season, school year, or other activity. Baseline scores are collected and stored on our HIPAA compliant server. ImPACT recommends re-administering the baseline test every two years.

Post-Injury Test – Administered by a licensed healthcare provider when a concussion is suspected. Test results are compared to baseline scores and/or normative data scores as part of a healthcare provider’s assessment of the injury. Multiple post-injury tests may be given to an individual during the course of treatment and rehabilitation.

Here’s How ImPACT Works:

  • 25-minute computerized, online test for ages 12-59
  • Delivered via a secure web portal
  • Taken via a desktop computer (PC and Mac compatible) that has an internet connection and a mouse
  • Administered in the presence of a physician, nurse, athletic trainer, athletic director, or coach (only a licensed healthcare provider can administer an ImPACT post-injury test)
  • Results interpreted by a licensed healthcare provider

What does ImPACT measure?

The test tracks a student’s symptoms and measures multiple aspects of cognitive functioning, including attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, non-verbal problem solving, and reaction time.

*This information is provided by ImPACT Applications Inc. (2017).


The Many Colors of the Bill of Rights: Paying Homage to De Tocqueville

By Dr. Tara M. Lavallee


As an American as well as a global participant in the world, I strive to prepare York Country Day students in US History on how to think analytically in order to become proficient in applying theoretical schools of thought to real world situations, events, and policies. History and political facts are not meant to be memorized, but rather explored, understood, utilized, assessed, and applied. I am passionate about training our students on how to become independent, informed thinkers. As French sociologist and political theorist De Tocqueville stated early in the development of the United States, the American experiment will succeed as long as the citizenry maintains a vibrant civil society (the art of association), for “the health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens not by government.”  

Recently, after delving into the often dense intricacies and Supreme Court decisions dealing with the enumerated first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, my students were asked to complete what seemed at first glance to be a basic, easy assignment.  Using watercolors, calligraphy pens, markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, stamps, glitter, and other artistic media, the students were to illustrate an Amendment or part of an Amendment, and explain how their illustrations reflected the Constitutional framers’ intentions of protecting individual civil liberties.


For two class periods, while listening to all my favorite “School House Rocks” songs, the students revelled in the freedom to use their artistic and written creativity to “play” with illustrating an Amendment. After each group presented their work to their fellow students, a magical, illuminating “a-ha” moment filled the room. Once distant, irrelevant ideas created by old men in wigs with often suspect hygiene had become, as one of my students put it, REAL. One student said, “At first the Amendments seemed so inconsequential, but now I realize how crucial they are to the liberties I often take for granted in my everyday life.” Sometimes all it takes are plenty of art supplies, youthful exuberance, singing along to “I’m just a bill, only a bill, and I am living here on Capitol Hill,” and an out-of-the-box idea. As a teacher whose students have often been heard to say, “Yes, we know, Dr. Lavallee, the Constitution is your great love,” this is the perfect reward. Now, sitting at my desk, I glance over at the sketch of De Tocqueville hanging up in my office and swear he is proudly winking at me.


Alumni Preserve History at YCDS

By Mrs. Laura Burkey, Alumni Relations

The history of York Country Day School is a rich one filled with more than six decades of students, faculty, and headmasters. Founded in 1953, York Country Day School opened its doors in a house on Springettsbury Avenue. Two years later, the school moved to its permanent home on the parcel of land between Regents Glen Boulevard and Indian Rock Dam Road.

Through the years, YCDS has been preserved through a rich oral tradition, yearbooks, and photograph. These archives carry such importance. This year in particular, we focus our outreach on connecting with alumni, former students, and retired faculty. It is an honor to hear the stories from alumni, who hail from the 1960s to the 2000s. It’s true our Greyhound community carries a checkered past, and one that I don’t want to lose.


It’s said that we shape our future based on the past. Without our more than 900 alumni, today’s students would not be able to experience all that they do today. It’s your stories, your successes and your memories that preserve our school.


As I embark on the alumni listening tour, I look forward to meeting as many alums as I can. I want to hear your stories and your experiences. Come for a tour of the school. See the faculty. Meet the students. Share in the common York Country Day School experience.

Why did you attend YCDS? Tell me about your time here. What would you change or keep the same?


I also plan to hold gatherings in select cities around the country. Is there somewhere that you think Dr. Heine and I should visit? Would you be interested in joining our alumni listening tour? (I promise, it’s painless. Just ask the 20 alums with whom I’ve already chatted.) Feel free to contact me (Laura Burkey) at 717-815-6713 or

Help us honor the York Country Day School history.

Noche de Cultura

By Mrs. Katie Ritter Torres

The Middle and Upper School Spanish Department hosted its second Noche de Cultura, or culture night, on Friday, November 10. At this event, we aim to celebrate and educate students on Spanish-speaking cultures through authentic food, games, sports, activities, crafts, dance, music, movies, and more presented by individuals who have personal experience with them. The event provides YCDS students with the opportunity to interact with native speakers of Spanish and it is an opportunity to build connections between YCDS and the greater community.

This year, more than sixty middle and upper school students attended Noche de Cultura. Each activity, decoration, and food was chosen with much thought in the hopes of introducing our students to a variety of Spanish-speaking cultures.  Colorful banners of Mexican papel picado hung across the dining hall and a Spanish radio station out of Miami set the scene for students’ arrival. Hungry attendees munched on guacamole made by Mr. Torres, salsa,  and tortilla chips from Tacos y Tortas in Hanover. Students also tried a variety of beverages: tamarindo, horchata, and different flavors of Jarritos sodas.


Leonetti Entertainment provided salsa lessons for the students in attendance. We definitely have some budding salseros in our school!


After the lesson, students lined up for tacos by Tacos y Tortas Palmas. It was a brisk night, but students braved the cold to order tacos of their choice: chicken, beef, chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage), and pork. Some students even ordered in Spanish! Inside, a typical Costa Rican dish of rice and beans called gallo pinto awaited students. Our very own Mr. Fleming made this dish after much research and remembering the words of his host mom in Costa Rica. Most would agree that Lizano, a special bottled sauce that Mr. Fleming had to order, is what makes this dish. Students also enjoyed fried and salted plantains made fresh at culture night.


Other activities of the evening included trompos and abanicos. Trompos are old-fashioned spinning tops that children in many Spanish-speaking countries play with to this day. Students attempted to get the tops to spin and then do tricks with them. They viewed YouTube video tutorials of professionals their age in Spanish-speaking countries. It is certainly harder than it looks! Students also had the opportunity to paint abanicos, hand fans that are popular in Spain. They turned out beautifully! We concluded the evening with the viewing of a trailer in Spanish for the Disney Pixar movie Coco and a few short films: Juan y la nube, Sinceridad, El regalo, and Viaje a Marte.

We hope students tried something new and had fun at culture night. The next one is tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2018. If you or someone you know has personal experience with authentic food, games, sports, activities, crafts, dance, music, movies, etc. from a Spanish-speaking country that you would like to share at a future culture night, please email Katie Ritter Torres at ¡Gracias!


College Visits and Showing Interest: How to Start

By Mr. Jake Doll, Director of College Counseling

This blog is the second part of series on college visits. To read the first entry, click here.

Visiting and effectively communicating with admission offices is a great step to differentiating oneself as an applicant.  Meaningful visits help gauge appropriate fit and indicate how one may expect to live and thrive on a campus.  Colleges and universities track visitation, email interaction, connection at a college fair or interview in your home area, as well as other “touches” they receive from students along the way. This demonstrated interest is key to institutions making their own informed decision about an applicant.

When arranging a visit, an institution may use an online scheduling system found directly on their website. You will typically find these under the “Admissions” portion of the site.  Look for any link related to “visits” or “visiting”.  Use them if they are available, as they are the most convenient means for you and the institution to set something up. Some offices may still prefer a phone call or use another means to get you on campus. Just follow the protocols offered and be your sweetest self when communicating.

Visit whenever possible. Distance and cost can be a factor, so if you are unable to justify a visit before applying, show your interest to an admission office by reaching out in meaningful ways. This allows you to elaborate about yourself as an applicant and to gain valuable perspective about the institution.

Mr. Doll and a group of students on a recent tour of NYU

York, PA has a vast number of colleges (all types, shapes, sizes) within a two-hour drive. I highly recommend taking advantage of those within close proximity to your home early on. This will help you learn a bit more about what you really want in that ideal campus, no matter its location.  You may have seen that I took students to visit NYU and Columbia recently.  We took a self-guided tour at NYU but still were able to speak with students as we navigated and learned.  It was unique, as NYU and NYC share so many spaces.  Every campus offers something different.  The setting dictates a great deal of this.  What setting are you looking for?  Maybe you prefer to start with the location and see what matches you can find for academic program, size, reputation, and any other factors that are meaningful to YOUR search.  Just take time to meet the people and learn all you can and you are well on your way.

Lower School Implements New Digital Portfolios

By Miss Jennifer Lam

Ready, set, action! A student begins to create and act out their own word problem for their friend. Students had just finished learning the important vocabulary terms in word problems to create addition and subtraction problems. Using an iPad stationed in the classroom, their partner records the action-packed learning.

Students have been recording their learning experiences since the first week of school with the application Seesaw. This program was introduced this year and has been the key to the transition from paper student work portfolios to digital student portfolios.

Students use their digital portfolios to document their learning and growth in all subjects. Students can easily access their personal portfolios by scanning a classroom QR code and clicking their name, a walk in the park for these digital natives. Parents access their child’s portfolio via individual link or QR code and will receive push notifications each time their child adds to their portfolio.

caroline seesaw

Digital portfolios give teachers and students the opportunity to upload drawings, videos, pictures, and photographs. Audio clips and drawings can be added to images to explain the experiment, writing piece, or book they are reading. For example, students can take a picture of a graph and record audio and add drawings as they analyze data to demonstrate their graph reading skills.


My favorite feature as a teacher is the drawing tool. Handwriting is an important skill for kindergarteners, and with the drawing feature, my students have practiced writing their numbers to show their progress through the first quarter. I am excited for parents to watch how their students form their numbers and recite numbers as they write, a feature not available with paper portfolios. Parents are able to clearly see the process of their child’s learning and not just the final product.

Our students’ digital portfolios were shared with families recently, and I look forward to discussing student progress and hearing feedback from families at parent conferences later this week.