}

A JK THROUGH 12 INDEPENDENT SCHOOL IN CHARLOTTE, NC

1941

Meet Our Students

It's our mission as a school to develop fully the potential of every student. From scientists and singers to ambassadors and activists, Country Day students are ready to pursue their talents and their passions.

Avery '20
Service Leader

Special Olympics, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program are long-standing Upper School traditions that set our school apart. As an IB student, senior Avery Lynch reflects regularly for the CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) component of the program, which challenges students to consider what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown as an individual through their extracurricular experiences. We are grateful to Avery for sharing excerpts from her CAS portfolio that demonstrate how impactful Special Olympics and BBBS are for our students.

Reflection #1:

I have always loved little kids and have been anxiously awaiting the time when I would be eligible to participate in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program through Rama Road Elementary. In October, Ms. Ellis, the leader of the Bigs program, told me she felt I was the perfect match for a first-grader named George, who had some special circumstances. George has Down Syndrome and communicates in his very own dictionary of words, signals, and a lot of personality that takes a little extra work to keep up with. All this aside, George was eager to have a big brother or sister like the rest of his classmates, and I was thrilled to be paired with him.

At my first meeting with George on October 29, I was immediately discouraged. His skepticism was apparent through the glaring look he gave behind his rimmed glasses, followed immediately by the silent treatment despite my best efforts to open him up. Ms. Loden, an assistant to the Bigs program, assured me it takes him a while to warm up to strangers, but as soon as he decided I was worthwhile everything would go smoothly. Extensive convincing and a Halloween candy bribe compelled George to follow me to what I told him was a “secret hideout,” where all the books and board games for the Bigs program are located. When we reached the staircase to walk to the game room, he stopped suddenly at the first step, and studied me and the obstacle that lay before us. After some serious internal deliberation, George reached his hand out to me expectantly, waiting for me to help him up the stairs. After we scaled the small flight, George decided, that for now, we could be friends, but only if I let him pick the game we played and assured him we didn’t have to read any boring books.

“I left feeling accomplished and fulfilled. I refused to give up on the start of our friendship; and, in the end, it seemed that he wasn’t ready to give up on me either.”

Reflection #2:

My second meeting with George was almost more nerve-racking than the first. I was worried that in the week that had passed he would have forgotten me, or worse, decided our friendship was a onetime thing. When I walked into the cafeteria and spotted George, he stood at his table and waved furiously, with the most precious and genuine smile that I’d ever seen. He directed me to sit next to him, and immediately handed me his utensils to cut up the remainder of his pizza. We spent most of our second meeting sitting at his lunch table, where the longer we sat the more I learned about George. After 15 minutes it was apparent that George had Rama Road wired. He was the big man on campus, and there was not one teacher or student who didn’t adore him; and he knew it. His confidence and humor shone as he waved at each of his fans and gave me a tour of the school. He eventually led me to one of their libraries where we took turns writing his name and practicing drawing smiley and frowny faces, which he insisted I act out every time. On the way back to his classroom, we held hands and jumped over every single crack in the vinyl flooring, which has become our new tradition. I dropped him back off with his teacher, fist-bumped him goodbye, and began walking out the door, when I heard George’s little feet run up behind me. By the time I turned around, he was halfway through the air, and jumped up to give me a huge hug.

“To say it made my day would be the understatement of the century.”

Reflection #3:

My first meeting with George following Christmas Break was both rewarding and devastating. When I walked into the cafeteria, I could immediately tell something was off. As is true for most first-graders, George had not yet mastered masking his emotions. When I sat in our usual spot and asked him what was wrong, he candidly responded with “mad.” Terrified, I asked if he was mad at me, or if other kids in his class had been mean to him, which he thankfully shook his head “no.” When I asked if perhaps he was mad at his family, he paused, and then changed his answer from “mad” to “sad.” I asked if something had happened with his parents or siblings over break, and he shook his head again, but said that he wanted to go home. I had been his age once and knew exactly what this meant. I asked him if he missed his parents and was sad to be back at school, and he finally shook his head “yes” but was clearly still devastated. I was proud of myself for knowing George well enough to notice this change in behavior and getting to the bottom of the issue but frustrated that there really was nothing I could do to make the situation better. I tried to assure him that he had made it through the hardest part of the day, his classes after lunch would fly by, and he would be home before he knew it. After cracking a few jokes and making a fool of myself in the cafeteria with my extensive repertoire of funny facial expressions and sound effects, he finally cracked a smile. We spent the rest of our lunch together mesmerized by the colorful spinner used in the game of Life, and playing the game with rules of George’s own invention, that always seemed to help him win.

Avery Lynch and George at Special Olympics

Reflection #4: 

Our last week at Bigs was incredibly eventful. Ms. Ellis organized a huge carnival with games, snacks, and books for each of the buddies to take home and read over the summer. When I walked into the cafeteria to pick George up that day, he immediately jumped up, grabbed my hand, and we walked/skipped to the outdoor area with the carnival games. George could barely contain his excitement as we waited for each activity. We found ourselves at the bubble table for at least 30 minutes; and each time we blew bubbles, it never lost its novelty. He gave me the biggest hug when I left, and my heart almost broke when I walked out of Rama Road, knowing I wouldn't be able to see George again until August. I hadn't realized just how much my relationship with him had affected me over these past few months, and I will miss seeing his smiling face every day.

Luckily for me though, Special Olympics was the following week, and I managed to convince my dean to let me loiter around the buses until Rama Road arrived so George could be my buddy. When he got off the bus and saw me, he jumped into my arms and gave me a kiss on the cheek. We spent the whole day making jewelry, winning prizes, and being “interviewed” on TV.

“It was so special to be able to introduce George to all the people in my life who had heard so much about him already.”

Read More > about Avery's Story
Laura '21
Camp Leader
Club/Varsity Soccer
One-Act and Musical
El Foro Hispano Club, president
Student Diversity Leadership Corps
International Thespian Society

 

“I wanted a change from ‘What am I going to do for myself this summer?’ to ‘What can I give to others this summer?’” Laura '21 recalls. "As a former student at Collinswood Language Academy, whose extended family lives in Colombia, Laura decided to put her stellar bilingual skills into action and create a one-week camp experience for underserved rising first graders.

Laura presented her proposal to offer a camp at Country Day called Aprende Jugando (Learn Through Play) where Hispanic children would be exposed to English and math in a fun and active environment. "Summer learning loss is real, especially bilingual learning loss, so it’s really crucial to help kids get the structure that they need in the summertime because reinforcement does not always happen at home,” says Laura.

After camp directors approved her proposal, Laura worked with  Collinswood’s magnet program coordinator to create a camp application and to brainstorm potential campers. “Country Day was wonderful because they offered us a bus so that the Aprende Jugando campers could be transported from Collinswood to Country Day. The Lower School also donated lots of books so that each of our nine campers could take home 10 books each.”

Laura formulated lesson plans that would help improve her campers’ English skills, and bought the snacks and the supplies that they would need. She also scoured YouTube to research activities to do with kids at camp. By the end of the week, parents and campers alike were presenting Laura with flowers, cards, and text messages conveying their deep appreciation for a job well done. 

Being Latina, I want to help this community because I have a voice. I feel like being bilingual is a gift that allows me to interact on a different level with so many different kinds of people, and I want others in our community to have that experience too.
Read More > about Laura's Story
Bennett '20
Ready to Serve
Varsity Tennis
Debate Club
National Honor Society
Bucs Business Club
Calvin Davis Foundation

 

As a member of Country Day’s state championship tennis team, Bennett '20 is a skilled athlete. He is also a leader who gives back to his community through Project UNIFY, an arm of the Special Olympics that brings together youth with and without intellectual disabilities through school-based
activities.

Through the game of tennis, Country Day and Special Olympics athletes create lasting experiences that culminate in a round-robin tennis tournament held Homecoming Weekend. After several weeks of practice together, Country Day tennis players are matched with a buddy and play doubles against other pairs in a tournament-like setting.

The Buccaneers’ Project UNIFY was started in 2014 by tennis alums Cabir ’16 and Jeevun ’18 Kansupada when they were students. “When my teammate asked me to lend a hand, I realized that I can help people while also enjoying myself.

Being in charge of this year’s Project UNIFY tennis tournament also gave Bennett the opportunity to  learn how to manage logistics, such as coordinating dates, recruiting fellow teammates, matching up competitors, lining up medical needs, and even making sure buildings were open for bathroom and changing needs.

Thanks to Project UNIFY, Bennett believes that his confidence has grown, he’s learned to be more productive, and he’s now even more open to new experiences. “I definitely hope to play tennis in college. It’s so much fun to be around other energetic, active people and create fun in a competitive environment!”

Read More > about Bennett's Story
Foster and William '20
Social Innovators
William:
Model United Nations, president
Honor Council, vice-chair
Student Senate, at-large senator
Cross Country, captain
Track/Indoor Track

Foster:
Model United Nations, vice president
Scoring for Students, co-founder
The Hook, editor in chief
JV Soccer, captain
Track//Indoor Track

Twin brothers Foster and William Harris '20 are interested in government and demonstrate a
genuine desire to help in areas where they see deficits.

As sophomores, Foster and William realized how complicated the naturalization process in Charlotte can be. The boys’ Spanish teacher, Paty Prieto, was going through the naturalization process and shared the intricacies of becoming a U.S. citizen with them. In addition, Foster’s soccer club, Scoring For Students, gave him and other Country Day students the opportunity to engage with new residents through street soccer.

Wanting to learn more, Foster visited Charlotte government offices, where he was introduced to Naturalize Charlotte. The organization collaborates with nine different groups to increase  naturalizations among eligible residents through dissemination of information, classes, community support, and volunteerism. Foster, a self-taught Web developer, thought that he and William could work together to build a Web site for Naturalize Charlotte that would serve as a central hub of information and resources to aid eligible residents seeking to be naturalized.

“In Model United Nations, we look to address complex challenges with unifying solutions, and that is what is at the core of this project’s goal as well,” remarks William.

To accomplish their goal, they not only needed to build a Web site but also translate their site’s information into several languages. Foster focused on building most of the site while William helped with the design, coordinated volunteer language translation, and oversaw their beta-testing program. After a year of hard work, the brothers published naturalizecharlotte.org and, in January, presented their work to the City International Cabinet. As they continue to finalize their Web site, the beta-testing of naturalizecharlotte.org will continue though the spring, allowing the Harris brothers to receive feedback from student groups as well as their partners at the nonprofits. Once the beta-testing is complete, a formal web site launch will take place in front of an array of guests from Charlotte’s international community.

The teens’ volunteer base, made up of Country Day parents, students, and several members of the broader Charlotte community, has helped them translate their Web site’s information into a plethora of languages including Chinese, French, German, Hindi, and Spanish.

I admire the fact that Foster and William are addressing a true need in our community and using their interest in global issues and skills with technology to fuel their project. Having started this project as sophomores, this is allowing them several years to bring their vision to fruition. We consistently stress
that global is not just what takes place overseas, but is also linked to dynamics within our local community. Foster and William’s project embodies this.

David Lynn, Director of International Studies

Foster and William credit Mr. Lynn with being an excellent mentor through every step of the process. He helped the boys make new contacts within Charlotte’s government offices, allowing them to learn more about how to best streamline the information related to the naturalization process.

 

Read More > about Foster and William's Story