If a school is to be greater than the sum of its test scores, if students are truly to excel both in the classroom and beyond, then there must be more at the core of that education than the hum of day-to-day life. There must be rigor and curiosity without limit, purpose and passion.
There must be a mission.
Students at York Country Day School are taught their school’s mission from an early age, one that’s focused on inspiring young minds and creating bold citizens. They’re shown the importance of creativity and diversity, and each one is known and valued for their individual contributions.
What’s more, though – perhaps most unique of all – students at YCDS from Pre-K to Upper School learn those lessons together, as a community. We grow as a family.
“It’s easy for everyone sometimes to get lost in the details, just going day to day through life,” said Eric Fleming, Upper School Spanish teacher. “But, here, we strive to see the entire puzzle, and to make everyone feel a part of that puzzle.
“We look at the big picture together.”
‘Why we love YCDS’
Danielle Kardisco’s instinct was to lead the group, but instead she took a deep breath and scanned the room. Around her, York Country Day School students of all ages were already deep in discussion about their school.
It was Mission Monday, and a community had gathered to engage.
The event, held earlier this year, grouped students from across all three divisions and tasked them with examining and deliberating on YCDS’ mission. Upper Schoolers helped young children with hard words; Lower Schoolers grabbed supplies to make posters before an all-school presentation later in the day. And a third-grade teacher smiled.
“We’re not only teaching them to be smart ,” Kardisco said. “We’re teaching them to be part of a community, and to just be better human beings.”
Afterward, young students in the third grade spoke about their day.
“My favorite part was making the poster because it says why we love YCDS,” Jensen said. “The mission is important because it represents our school,” Addie added.
“My favorite part was making the banner,” Sara said, “because everyone in my group could help.”
‘You can make a difference’
The Mission Monday contributions of YCDS’s youngest students impressed their older peers. From mission key-word crosswords to insightful drawings to a volcano erupting with school pride, often it was Lower Schoolers whose creativity drove progress.
“The little ones actually contributed most,” said junior Jagr. “They always had fantastic answers.”
The 16-year-old plans to study computer science in college, after a recent course at York College through YCDS’s community partnership. That class was an epiphany, he said, enough to sway him from the mechanical engineering career he’d long planned.
But that’s the beauty and wonder of York Country Day School: the opportunities are as wide as your curiosity, as deep as your drive to learn.
Jagr can remember looking at the mission in the school handbook as a young boy. Some of the words were a little long, he recalled, the ideas just too big. Early in high school, though, those sentences suddenly spoke to him. Something clicked.
“It’s almost as if I finally realized that everything I do affects everybody else,” he said. “You can make a difference; we all can make a difference. Once you understand that, it’s pretty powerful and transformative.”
Pursuing our promise
York Country Day School “inspires and nurtures the innovative and creative spirit of students as they pursue their intellectual promise,” the mission begins. From there, it highlights compassion and the pursuit of learning, community, the common good and more.
And it ends with a call to students, as simple as it is singular: better the world.
YCDS students and faculty spend their time together searching for such answers, working, learning and following knowledge down whatever paths their passion leads them. In the end our setbacks are set aside, and our successes are shared. We win together.
“Each student has a luminous presence. Collectively, the sum of their efforts, their spirit, and their desire to contribute to the greater good radiates brilliantly within our community every day,” states Head of School, Dr. Christine Heine.
With the mission in mind, we stretch out toward our promise, each day, as one.