23 May 2011

Unleashing Creativity in Downtown York

By Caitlyn Meyer

The York County Industrial Development Authority (YCIDA) is unleashing creativity in downtown York. In 2009, the YCIDA purchased the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building, located at 37 West Philadelphia Street, with plans to transform it into a downtown arts center. The building’s proximity to Central Market places it within the strategic downtown area targeted for development as a result of recommendations by Roger Brooks in response to the City’s desire to become a vibrant,
thriving downtown.

The building, known as the Eagles Art Center, will house gallery space, multipurpose assembly space, two residential apartments, an Arts Orientation Center, a commercial kitchen for caterer use for events and functions as well as multi-use artist space. York College of Pennsylvania recently signed a four year lease for space as the anchor tenant in the Eagles Art Center. One floor of the building is being specifically designed for York College’s senior painting students which will give them ample studio space, gallery space and the ability to interact and gain exposure to the business aspects of being a full-time artist.

The YCIDA is proud to work with the City of York to attract and retain creative businesses in downtown York, as it recognizes a robust and creative downtown is crucial to economic development, not only in the City of York but also throughout the entire County. The Authority also believes enhancing the quality of place will also aid in attracting a young, creative workforce to the area.

The Eagles Art Center is scheduled for completion in Fall 2011. Visit http://www.ycida.org/ for additional information on projects of the York County Industrial Development Authority.

Caitlyn Meyer is the business development coordinator for the York County Economic Development Corp. She coordinates YCEDC activities related to the York County Economic Development Plan, seeks to work with local governments through the Municipal Outreach Program and works on business retention. Caitlyn earned her bachelor’s degree in history from York College of Pennsylvania in 2009 and has been with YCEDC since that time. Caitlyn lives and works in York City. She can be reached at cmeyer@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879, ext. 3053.

17 May 2011

Creating the “Village” Every Child Needs

By Christy Renjilian

Can you imagine a community where every child grows up healthy and safe, one in which every child succeeds in school, graduates high school and has a career? What would attaining this goal mean for the social and economic health of York City? What would it take to make this vision a reality?

Approximately 35 people met at the United Way of York County to discuss a potential new initiative for York City to create this kind of community. The Promise Neighborhoods’ vision is that all children have access to effective schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career. The purpose is to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes for children in distressed communities and to transform those communities. The initiative addresses academic, health, family support and community needs. Those at the meeting have agreed to work collaboratively to plan such a transformative project. The planning process will require early childhood educators, public, private and charter schools personnel to work together to meet the educational needs of the children. This federal grant draws from the work of Geoffrey Canada with the Harlem Children’s Zone. Many of you might have attended his April lecture in York.

“Beyond the Bell” is another new collaborative coalition that is addressing the needs of children and families in the York City school district. The purpose is to share limited resources and ensure that a variety of afterschool programs are available. This is especially critical due to the budget cuts in the York City School District. The YMCA of York and York County, Martin Library, 4-H, York City Health Bureau, the United Way of York County, and several other organizations are working together to provide programs. York City school teachers and administrators are working with community-based organizations to ensure that the programs align with school curriculum and address gaps created by the elimination of classes such as gym.

Families are already embracing the programs offered by these organizations. For example, approximately 45 families are participating in the United Way of York County’s Ready Freddy kindergarten readiness program at Goode Elementary School. The six week program is designed to prepare children and families for school. One father who is attending the sessions with his daughter said, “I am not here to prepare my child for kindergarten, I am here to prepare her to graduate high school”. This is exactly the commitment families need to make to help their child succeed in school and life.

Some may say the goal of every child succeeding is too lofty, unrealistic and unattainable. The people involved in these projects know all to well the roadblocks children and families face on the road to success. We also know that no one school district, community-based organization or program can meet the needs of all children and families. Only by working together, to stretch resources, eliminate duplication of services, and address gaps, will we succeed. The future health of our community demands no less than our collective best effort.

For more information on the programs mentioned go to:









Christy Renjilian is the Director of Focus On Our Future for the United Way of York County. She has a Masters degree in Social Policy Analysis from the University of Chicago. Christy has more than 20 years of experience administering early childhood education programs and has been with the United Way of York County for more than five years.  She lives in Springettsbury Township with her husband and two children. Christy can be reached at renjilianc@unitedway-york.org or 717-771-3808.

10 May 2011

Work on second Pa. youth survey starting now

By Leigh Dalton

The Communities That Care system is a way for members of a community to work together to promote positive youth development.

About 15 years ago, many York County school districts implemented CTC at the school district level. In the smaller geographic areas, it was hard to sustain, so only four of these district-wide CTCs remain: Central York, Dallastown, Hanover Area (both Hanover Public and South Western School Districts), and York Suburban.

York County Human Services and other stakeholders in York County implemented the first York County CTC in February 2010 and wrote a 2011Community Action Plan. The approach detailed in the action plan emphasizes evidence-based practices deployed throughout the entire county, an approach organizers believe will be more effective and sustainable.

The most vital element of this process is receiving and analyzing the results from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), which is intended to discover risk factors and protective factors within communities. Data around behaviors of youth and programs that discourage those behaviors is gathered and used to create strategies for community improvement. With funding assistance from the York County District Attorney’s office, PAYS was administered in collaboration with 15 of York’s 16 school districts in fall 2009. Also participating in the survey were New Hope Academy Charter School and two of the Lincoln Intermediate Unit (LIU) Schools. All together, 11,923 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 participated in the survey.

York County CTC is gearing up to administer the second round of PAYS in fall 2011. With new data from PAYS, CTC will take another look at our county’s risk and protective factors to better inform decision makers about investments to improve the quality of life for our youth. In order to make the best informed decisions, we need adequate representation from ALL the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders in York County. School districts can use this data to better inform their own policies and practices, just as West York uses PAYS results.

2009 PAYS data was used to qualify for state funding to expand the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in York County.

Schools will receive the survey in late September and will have the month of October to administer it to their students. York County CTC prefers that schools offer the survey online, but paper versions will be available.

We are encouraging schools – public, private, parochial, alternative, charter and cyber – who did not participate, either because they were not contacted or because they were unsure of CTC’s purpose, to contact me at 717-854-8755 x209 or at leigh@yorkbar.com, to start the process to administer the PAYS this year.

Also: We’re looking for more mentors to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you’re interested, let me know that, too.

Leigh Dalton is the director of the York County Truancy Prevention Initiative (www.yorktruancyprevention.org) and the community mobilizer for York County Communities That Care. After receiving her law degree from the University of Baltimore, School of Law, she managed a truancy intervention program called the Truancy Court Program. She is pursuing her doctorate in education policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She lives in Spring Garden Township with her husband, baby daughter and her two rescued dogs. She can be reached at leigh@yorkbar.com and 717-854-8755, ext. 209.

They would have the whole world in their hand...

by Jared Mader

Imagine it: You’re dining out with friends, and the question comes up, “Who played the leading role in....” or “Who scored the winning goal when...” We’ve all been there. It’s like a mad dash to the finish line as dining parties rush to their devices and gadgets, just to see who can be first to the answer.

Now, fade to a new setting. Imagine yourself entering a typical American classroom. This time, it is the teacher that asks, “What is the most interesting current event in today’s news?” What do we see this time? Is it a mad dash, like in the scenario above, as students grab their cell phones to pull the top news stories from CNN mobile, Reuters, The Daily, and more? Doubtful, as in most of our educational environments, these types of devices are contraband, at best. Now, just to air our own dirty laundry, we are in the same boat here at Red Lion. Our policies and rules have not caught up with the culture to which we are trying to prepare our students. We need to make this change, however, as student’s mobile devices offer budgetary opportunities for schools to stay current with technology at less cost.

We are not unlike many other schools in that we are aware that we need to make change -- change that will allow students to use the powerful tools that they own. We need to devise our strategy for implementation that wouldn’t simply offer students carte blanche unsupervised access at any time. This is where educators can help to teach students that there is more to be done with those mobile devices than text and update Facebook.

Before we begin to allow the power of mobile and personal devices into our classrooms we must identify the goals for their use. First, they should include teaching students to be effective digital farmers, cultivating the information that is already on the web and growing products that demonstrate their higher order thinking. Second, they should be held to a high expectation with regards to the digital citizenship they model and follow.

So, where do we start? We, first, need to redesign our policies to allow teachers to permit effective and monitored instructional use of these devices in their classrooms. There, that was easy.

Next, we need to begin training our teachers to recognize and identify the tools that are available for these devices and how they can change their classrooms. Such tools may include apps for recording audio, measuring scientific variables, responding to class prompts and researching information. Training staff to recognize and address the conversations about digital citizenship is a necessary component of this professional development.

Finally, implementation, take our most eager and comfortable teachers and set them loose with their students' devices. By allowing teachers the professional freedom to make the decision regarding the appropriate application of these tools, our students will now be able see the responsible and ethical expectations under which these devices should be used and districts may be able to save in their technology budgets.

Jared Mader is the Director of Technology for the Red Lion Area School District. He has served in this position for four years, after teaching Chemistry for nine years. In that time, he has led technology integration professional development initiatives. He is a member of the Discovery Educator Network and has been identified as a PDE State Keystone Technology Integrator. He also serves as a partner in an educational technology consultancy, EdTechInnovators, providing professional development to districts across the United States and abroad. Jared lives in York with his wife Janell and 7-year-old daughter Emma. You can contact him at maderj@rlasd.k12.pa.us or jared@edtechinnovators.com.

09 May 2011

Food sustainability means more money for the local economy

by Deron Schriver

We’re facing a huge challenge as a society that, thankfully, more and more people each day are starting to realize. How can we maintain a strong global economy that provides for the entire population, while still protecting the planet and maintaining our precious and increasingly limited natural resources? When the focus is on the economy and jobs, we tend to think of production and consumption at any cost. As I mentioned in my previous post, the concept of sustainability sheds light on the effects of this thinking.

But wait. Don’t stop reading because you think this is just another piece about the environment or global warming. According to the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, 99.5 percent of the $900 million spent on food by York County residents leaves the County! If that 0.5 percent share was increased to just 5 percent, that would amount to an additional $40 million retained in the local economy. It’s not difficult to make a local economic development case out of this issue.

If that’s not enough, consider this from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather support the York economy than that of Iran.

Sustainability, including food sustainability, should be something we all think about. The younger generation will hopefully grow up with more awareness of the issue. York College has even created a Sustainability and Environmental Studies minor to, among other things, help students understand how our actions as humans can prevent or mitigate negative impacts on the environment. We can expect great things from a program like that.

Sustainability is not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s about being more forward thinking and big picture-oriented, traits on which we already place a lot of value. We might not run out of food in our lifetimes, and we may or may not go bankrupt from skyrocketing healthcare costs in the next decade, but we are on an unsustainable path and we must set a new direction. In the next post, I will dive into the world of industrialized food and discuss ways we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

Deron Schriver is the executive administrator for The Women's Healthcare Group and a member of the Guiding Committee for Healthy World Café. He has a particular interest in studying and participating in solutions to address health issues affecting our society. Deron earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in business administration, both from York College. He lives in West Manchester Township with his wife, Lisa.

05 May 2011

Honoring efforts to improve early childhood education

High-quality early childhood education is crucial to student
achievement. That point was emphasized again at the recent
Week of the Young Child Recognition event in York.
By Christy Renjilian

April 14 was a big day for education in York County. Starting in the morning and lasting into the early afternoon, approximately 250 people attended the YorkCounts Education Summit. In the evening, 375 people attended the annual Week of the Young Child Recognition event for early childhood educators. The first event drew administrators, teachers, businesspeople and other community members interested in hearing about the current climate for public education. People attended the second event to celebrate the impact of high-quality early childhood on the children and families in York County.

This was the 40th annual Week of the Young Child, a national celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world’s largest early childhood education association, with nearly 100,000 members and a network of over 300 local, state and regional affiliates. Week of the Young Child focuses public attention on the needs of young children and their families and recognizes the early childhood education programs and services that meet those needs.

The annual recognition event is sponsored by Focus On Our Future, the early childhood education initiative of the United Way of York County, and the York Area Association for the Education of Young Children (YAAEYC). Nava Ghalili of Fox 43 News served as the master of ceremonies, and Kurt Kondrich was the keynote speaker. Mr. Kondrich is a retired police officer who now serves as the Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Early Intervention. He is a passionate advocate for the importance of high quality early childhood education and early intervention programs. He is also a father of a child with Downs Syndrome who is reading on grade level and an active participant in her second grade class. So he knows first hand how quality programs support children and families.

This year, parents nominated approximately 100 early childhood educators for the Outstanding Provider Award, recognizing the teachers’ hard work and dedication to their children.

The event also celebrated the home-based and center-based programs that voluntarily participate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s quality-improvement program, Keystone STARS. Approximately 130 York County providers are participating in this program. In the past five years the number of STAR 3 has increased from none to 13, and STAR 4, the highest level, has increased from 13 to 22. We also recognized York County’s Pre-K Counts, Head Start, and Early Head Start programs and those programs that have achieved national accreditation, the highest level of quality. York County has 13 accredited centers and 12 accredited home-based providers.

A Children’s Champion Award is presented to an individual in the community who does not work in the early childhood education field but is a strong advocate and partner in supporting families and young children. This year’s award was presented to George Eckenrode, chief executive officer of Family-Child Resources, for his efforts to support the mental health needs of young children and their families.

The event does more than celebrate accomplishments of early childhood educators and the programs they serve. It recognizes the importance of their work on the future educational success of the children, which, in turn, will improve the economic viability of York County. It also affirms the connections and the commitments the early childhood education community has with each other. Home-based and center-based programs and Head Start, EvenStart, Early Head Start, preschool and Pre-K Counts all work together to provide a variety of services to meet the needs of children and families. They share their knowledge and skills with each other working collaboratively on curriculum, professional development and classroom management issues. The early childhood education community, along with its partners Martin Library, public schools, early intervention, Lincoln Intermediate Unit #12 and community-based organizations, learned a long time ago that by working together, in partnership with families, they can improve quality and keep costs down.

Speakers at the YorkCounts education summit talked about the importance of school districts and the community working together, to provide joint professional development opportunities, share community resources and engage parents. One effective model of this is the early childhood education community in York County. Over the past 16 years, Focus On Our Future, YAAEYC and the early childhood education providers in York County have shown us that by working together collegially we can ensure a more successful future.

Christy Renjilian is the director of Focus on our Future for the United Way of York County. She has a Masters degree in Social Policy Analysis from the University of Chicago. Christy has more than 20 years of experience administering early childhood education programs and has been with the United Way of York County for more than five years. She lives in Springettsbury Township with her husband and two children. Christy can be reached at renjilianc@unitedway-york.org or 717-771-3808.