One Week, 18 Years in the Making

Between weeding the gardens, lunching with kindergarteners and alumni and doing some volunteer work in the community, the seniors had a full dance card last week. It’s a testament to their tireless determination (or just a cosmic scheduling fluke) that they also made time Saturday to graduate from high school.

Though the commencement ceremony hardly wanted for sincere and thoughtful expression, Maddy P. and Gabby D. elucidated what made them the class of 2013 while Ethan J. and Mike Simpson delivered an oratorical one-two punch with their uniquely rousing and poignant speeches addressed to the class of 2013.

Simpson, the consummate service partisan, made special mention of the seniors’ commitment to volunteerism. Last week alone saw them aiding the elderly at Conestoga View, helping the decidedly non-elderly at Schreiber Pediatric Center, lending a hand at Milagro House and tending to the school’s own gardens by pulling weeds.

If all the hurly-burly helped build up some appetites, they were well sated at lunches with the Alumni Panel one day and Alumni Council the next.

In addition to the awards given at commencement, prizes were also presented at Thursday’s Awards assembly.

The assembly winners were:

Elizabeth Ross Award — Thessaly A.
LCDS Community Service Award — Navia F.
Helen Powlison Memorial Prize — Madalyn S.
Danny Eshleman ’97 Memorial Award — Daniel W.
Jay B. Niesley Award — Natalie M.
Jarvis Scholar Award — Arnav S.
Jarvis Citizen Award — Madison M.

The commencement winners were:

The Trustee Prize (Awarded to the senior with the highest grade point average.) — Madison K.

Ruth S. Hostetter Award (This award honors the memory of a Shippen School graduate from the class of 1931. Recognizes a senior who, over an extended period of time, has worked selflessly and enthusiastically to enhance the school community.) — John S.

Ann Musselman Award (Given in honor of Anne Musselman, an LCDS English and history teacher who enriched the lives students and colleagues for 30 years, this award is given to the student who best exemplifies personal qualities Anne cherished and modeled for others: enthusiastic curiosity; the courage to take intellectual risks; joy in a lifetime of learning; and a desire to pack the most living possible into each one of life’s “precious minutes.”) — Auvray A.

Faculty Award (Given to recognize a senior with special qualities worthy of acknowledgement) — Katherine W.

Head of School Award (Presented annually by the Head of School, recognizing the senior who is most deserving of special recognition for characterizing the qualities most valued at LCDS.) — Jillian M. and Wesley D.

For more on the commencement ceremony, see Lancaster Newspapers’ coverage in the May 19 Sunday News.

Service Without a Net

The lady in the front row couldn’t hear the actors, and she wasn’t shy about letting them know.

“Speak louder!” she shouted, and Maddy P. and Nina S. gamely continued with their scene from “A Comedy Of Errors,” unwittingly performing a whole new comedy on the spot.

“Students at this age are anxious to be of service to their school and their community,” said Head of Middle School Rudy Sharpe. “They understand the responsibility they have to assist in those areas of need where they can be most useful.”

The Theater Eight class found exactly that and headed to Willow Valley last week to put on a series of scenes for the pensioners who live there as part of their class service project. The students worked both alone and in groups acting out selections from Shakespeare to John Hughes. The audience seemed to enjoy the matinee, showering the actors with warm smiles and applause (once the kids spoke up, that is).

“Interacting with our senior population through theater performance not only entertains the seniors,” said Sharpe, “but also provides our students with added opportunities for intergenerational understanding.”

The troupe included:

Katie K.
Sammy S.
Catherine P.
Jackie K.
Victoria W.
Mali R.
Jake S.
Daniel F.
Quinn B.
Maddy P.
Nina S.
Cole S.
Isaac S.
Lenaiya F.
Taliah C.

Appreciating in Their Own Little Ways

“You witness their faces when they see their buddies in the hallway and give them a high-five or just say hi. Their faces light up. They think it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

Middle School math teacher and seventh-grade class advisor Elise Green was describing the unique bond that forms between her students and their Lower School Buddies. A rotating group of 12 older kids heads down to the junior kindergarten classroom once a week to play games or do crafts. Click here to see it.

This informal mentorship program is more than five years old, and, in Green’s estimation, an unqualified success. Middle School Head Rudy Sharpe, Ph.D., explained, “Service learning and character education are significant parts of a Middle School education. The more opportunities we can provide for students to practice empathy and kindness, the more likely it is that they will carry these qualities into their later teen years. This program benefits not only the younger children but also our seventh-graders as they develop poise, self-confidence, and important relational skills.”

Green said, “It’s good for the seventh graders to give back. It helps them grow as a person and really builds character, patience and listening. It helps them become role models.”

As Lower School teacher Kevia Walton explained, “The JK students are still learning the basic math concepts presented through these games and still need an older student or a teacher to have them stop and count again or look at the math symbol one more time and think about what it represents. Their older schoolmates will be able to give them that little reminder that keeps the game meaningful to their mathematical concept development.”

One happy side effect of older buddies teaching the little ones math in a way they love is that the kids also get a solid handle on the days of the week. “They know when it’s Thursday,” Green said. “They start asking their teachers, ‘Is it buddy day today?’”

“The seventh graders realize what kind of impact they have when they see how much the kids look forward to seeing them,” Green continued.

“It’s good for the students to feel valued and feel appreciated by the little ones in their own little ways and it’s good for the older kids to help their in-house community,” Green said.

“Everybody definitely benefits.”

Beginning Charity at Home

“Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for… folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.”

Upper School teacher Mike Simpson didn’t mention Ralph Waldo Emerson when he presented his vision for a bold and reinvigorated service curriculum at Country Day, but his entreaty for sustained, local student action appealed to the transcendentalist in all of us.

Simpson believes in volunteerism, a passion he shares with his Literature of Service students, as well as all the other Country Day kids and teachers who give of themselves to help others. He lauded those doing charitable deeds, but noted “pockets of great work without an umbrella over it.” Addressing the Upper School on Tuesday, Simpson called on every student to make a “sustained, meaningful, personal connection to a cause” as part of a more codified and cohesive service program for the school.

The main force behind introducing service learning to Country Day 15 years ago was a former English teacher whom Simpson, and many other alums, holds in the highest esteem: Jim Macintosh. Macintosh lamented that he wasn’t doing enough good at LCDS and told then-Head of School Mike Mersky he planned to leave. As a compromise, the service learning program was born and Macintosh stayed.

The initial focus was on serving the local community, and Macintosh soon became busy establishing partnerships and ferrying student volunteers from Country Day to places such as Wharton Elementary School, Milagro House and Crispus Attucks Community Center.

When Macintosh left the school a decade ago, the program wilted. Along with the Upper School administration, Simpson aims to revive it, and he’s aiming high. His goal (one of them, at least) is for 25 percent of the Upper School to earn an Outstanding Community Service designation by spending more than 50 hours volunteering over six months.

“I believe in sweat over brownies,” he said, asserting that doing, rather than just collecting things, yields a greater “tangible and measurable benefit” for everyone involved.

Simpson’s friend, guest speaker and Reynolds Middle School Principal Steve Sahonyay, hit this idea hard as soon as he took the stage. He too praised the students’ current efforts, which include trips abroad for the Literature of Service class. “You’re helping a lot of people,” Sahonyay said, “but I’m your neighbor.”

He laid out the facts: Of Reynolds 520 students, 73 percent are poor and rely on the school to feed them breakfast and lunch. Eighty children require special education and 180 speak English as a second, or third, language. These include refugees from Burma and Nepal, both destitute countries wracked with political dysfunction and violence.

“We’re right next door. We’re part of the same community,” Sahonyay said. He continued, “I’m not here for a handout or looking for charity. We want someone willing to work with us. We want our students to help you for Country Day’s needs.”

“Show them the good,” Sahonyay beseeched the Upper School. “Give them someone to look up to.”

“Come visit and see what goes on,” he said. “There are a ton of things out there you could do; this is right in your backyard.”