The life of a first generation American student

Many students have to search deep into their family tree to see where they originated. But for Amy Zhong, a sophomore at Dallastown High School, she does not have to look too far.

Zhong is a first generation American student. Her mother immigrated from China to America before she was born. Zhong tells us what it is like to be a Chinese American and what life is like when most of your family is across sea.

Amy Zhong and her mother visiting the Great Wall of China

Amy Zhong and her aunt visiting the Great Wall of China

Zhong’s mother learned English before she came to America. Zhong grew up speaking English, but knows some Chinese. “One perk is that I have a head start on being bilingual,” Zhong said.
Continue reading “The life of a first generation American student” »

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Are the Libraries of York County the Volunteer Spot for You?

Martin Library is always looking for teen volunteers. The library is shown here during a tour by Rep. Kevin Schrieber. Kate Penn — Daily Record/Sunday News

Martin Library is always looking for teen volunteers. The library is shown here during a tour by Rep. Kevin Schrieber. Kate Penn — Daily Record/Sunday News

Volunteer work is an important part of a teenager’s life. Whether it’s due to a requirement imposed by school, or simply because of an urge to give back and get involved with the community, most teens end up volunteering sometime during their high school years.

Many teenagers look forward to their volunteer hours that will help them to diversify their college applications and resumes, and give them the opportunity to do something good while meeting new friends with similar interests. But where is the best place for teens to volunteer in York County? According to my sources at Martin Memorial Library, York County libraries are the place to be.

If you are interested in volunteering at your local library, there are a few things you have to know before getting started. Here is a guide to help you get started with your journey as a library volunteer:

  1. Look into your local library’s volunteering opportunities. According to Reed Apostol, Teen Services Librarian at Martin Memorial Library, “The first step for teens to get involved with volunteering at the library is figuring out what you want to do. Different libraries in York County have different opportunities, so while some libraries may not have teen volunteers, other libraries focus specifically on volunteer opportunities for teens. The best thing to do would be to go in to your library and ask who the best person to talk to about teen opportunities is, and then get in touch with that person – by face-to-face, by phone, or by email.”
  1. You have to meet the age requirement. At Martin Library, you must be at least 13 years of age. Once you turn 18, you become an adult volunteer. There is some extra paperwork required at that point, but all-in-all it is a fairly easy process.
  1. Make sure you have time to be there! As busy as your schedule may be as a teenager, if you are looking to volunteer, you must be sure to find some space to pencil in those hours! Libraries offer flexible hours to volunteers, perfect for a teenager who is always on the go. According to Apostol, “During the school year, after-school and weekend volunteering is available. Opportunities tend to be fewer, so if you don’t get a call back, stay in touch and try again later. Let us know how passionate you feel about helping at the library, and be open to doing anything. We don’t usually have many opportunities to work with little kids, but if you’re okay with basic organization tasks, that’s a good way to get your foot in the door. Once we know you’re reliable and a good worker, we know we can give you more complex and interesting tasks, and since you’ve been around a while, we know you’ve got the basics and we can give you more training.”
  1. Be certain that volunteering at the library is a good fit for you. From shelving books, to serving on the Teen Advisory Board (a program offered at a few local libraries, including Martin) volunteering opportunities at York County libraries are diverse and unique. It truly seems as though there is a job for everyone. This being said, it’s best to be interested in and passionate about the volunteer work you intend to do.

So if you are interested in giving back to the community through volunteer work at the library— jump in! As stated by Dawn States, Teen Program Coordinator at Martin, “Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the community, explore interests and passions, meet new people and gain connections, and beat boredom. Plus it always looks good on a resume or college application! Volunteering at Martin Library specifically has a unique set of benefits in that a library is poised to assist multiple segments of the community. In this case, teens that choose to volunteer at Martin experience diversity and community. There is always something to do here, so if a teen is really committed they can get a lot of volunteer hours and keep track of them for their records.”

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Great advice to aspiring writers from an inspired writer: Author Peggy Santamaria

Great Advice to Aspiring Writers from an Inspired Writer

Author Peggy Santamaria


Peggy Santamaria is a self-publishing author living in Hanover. Her writing fits into the genres of historical and paranormal. She focuses on the spirits of the past. Her first novel came out in 2013 and is called “The Spirit of Abby Cooper” which focuses on the Battle of Hanover in the Civil War. Her second novel, “Finding Young Wolf,” focuses on Native Americans in Pennsylvania. Santamaria appeared excited to conduct the interview that follows. She gave insight into being a self-published author and advice to aspiring writers in this interview which was conducted over emails.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

At this point in my life, I am a semi-retired person. When I was writing for an employer, and now writing for the sheer joy of it, I am at the computer early in the morning. This is my best thinking time. It is also the time of day that I take my dog for her walk which gives me the chance to organize my thoughts and prepare to write.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I don’t think it was ever a conscious choice. It just happened. In my long working career, I wrote everything from instructional manuals to public relations and advertising.

Why do you write?

I can’t help it.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

It is so much fun to create characters and situations and then challenge yourself to find the best words to convey your thoughts. It has also given me some incredible opportunities to meet people, particularly young people, and learn about their creative aspirations. It has been such an honor to do this.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Because I write only part time, the hardest part is having enough time to get my thoughts organized and on paper when my brain is functioning clearly.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Since I am pretty old, I really don’t think of this as a career. I am doing what many people do when they finally reach a point in life that they can set aside some time to do something that they have wanted to do for a long time. For me, that desire was to write fiction. So much of the writing I have done in the past has been directed from outside me. The writing I most enjoy right now is the selfish stuff I do with fiction.

How do you think you evolved creatively?

My parents were very nurturing. My father read to us at night. In school, writing was emphasized as was reading.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do while writing?

One of the best writing tips I ever got was from an English teacher who used the term “incubating” your ideas. If it is fiction, this is time when you consider your characters and get to know them – hear their voices -see them. I find that the more real my people are to me, the easier it is to put them into the story. What not to do? I would simply say, don’t give up.

Provide tips on how to get through Writer’s Block.

When I can’t write, I don’t try. I usually just walk away from it and go back inside my head and just let thoughts ramble around. I “visit” with my characters and think about what they would do next to make my stories unfold.

What experience or traits do you feel are demanded to be a writer?

I would say the need to be able to take yourself to the quiet place inside your head where you can hear your own thoughts and have the patience to find the words that will convey them.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read and find out what you like. Then write! Write anything. Learn to love words and notice how other writers use them. Sometimes you will read or hear a phrase, maybe even in a song that will strike you. Write it down. Remember it. Learn from it.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Like anyone producing anything with heart and soul, it is much nicer to hear a good review. One can certainly learn from a bad review, but it’s not nearly as much fun!

What do you do to get book reviews?

Oh my. Let’s see. I haven’t had that much experience in this. The Evening Sun gave me a very nice review when I published my first story. I had stopped in their office and left a copy of my book. I was very grateful for their kindness.

What are your views on using social media for marketing?

Social media offers many opportunities to get the word out on what you are producing.

Describe the process of self-publishing.

In my case, it was simply a matter of contacting a representative from the publishing company and asking for information. I provided the copy to them in the correct format and it was produced. The company was not involved in any marketing. I was content to go “small” with what I was producing and it worked very well for me.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

That is an interesting question. I have been published in the past through the traditional publishing route. It is a long process with lots of dead ends. When I wrote my first fictional story a few years ago, I was considering that route again. However, I had the opportunity to take part in a book-signing during the Hanover anniversary in 2013. So, I decided to check out self-publishing options. I was very fortunate to find a great support system for doing just that right in Hanover. It was fast and efficient and I had my books on schedule.

Where do you see publishing in the future?

I’m sure it will increasingly move to electronic formats. I, however, love books, bookstores and libraries. I’m very old-fashioned that way.

Provide a short summary of your career.

I have worked in many different fields including teaching, serving the elderly as an advocate, working in community mental health to increase public awareness and understanding, banking, public relations, and as a news reporter and photographer. In all of these capacities, I used writing skills for communication.


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How is avian flu affecting York County businesses?

Some York County businesses have had to make changes because of rising egg prices, a result of the avian flu, but others said they haven’t been affected.

Recently, there has been an outbreak of Avian Flu in the United States. The U.S Department of Agriculture has said that approximately 48 million birds have been affected, mostly in Iowa, the number one egg production state.

The avian flu first became noticed in 1997 in Hong Kong, where the first known bird to human case developed.  Although the spread of bird to human is usually rare, people who live in close quarters to the carriers of the influenza are much more susceptible to becoming affected. EggsThe carriers of the flu are typically domesticated chickens, turkeys, ducks, wild aquatic birds, and other animal species. According to the CDC, certain strains of the avian flu show no symptoms (especially in ducks), others have a mild change such as drop of egg production or ruffled feathers, whereas other viruses are severe with high mortality rate. Continue reading “How is avian flu affecting York County businesses?” »

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Last-minute school shopping: What you need for your budget

School supply stock photo

School supplies: How to shop with a budget

School starts this month for many high school students. Many still need to pick up supplies. If any teens still haven’t gotten to school shopping this list might very well help them out. Here’s what a trip to Walmart can buy:

Under $20

2 x Five Star three subject notebook

3 x Economy view one inch binder

1 x Folder
Continue reading “Last-minute school shopping: What you need for your budget” »

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Taking control of cyber bullying

Nearly 43 percent of students have been cyber bullied, according to the organization Do Something. One in four students have had it happen to them more than once.

Eric Klansek, assistant principal at Emory H. Markle Intermediate School, works with his co-workers to do as much as possible to prevent the issue.

Klansek said that on average, they receive one to two cyber bullying incidents a month.

Klansek said that most of the incidents happen outside of school. Therefore, they cannot intervene but do recommend that the alleged victim and the parents contact the police department.

“Cyber bullying is definitely on the rise and we, as educators, need to adjust to this,” he said. “It is a new form of bullying and we are always looking at making our educational experiences better for all students.”

He said that if people really want to put a stop cyber bullying, they need to talk to the students. He and his co-workers make sure that their students are aware of the consequences so that they realize that it is not a socially acceptable behavior.

When asked how cyber bullying is different from traditional bullying, he said that where traditional bullying is face-to-face interaction, with cyber bullying, the bully can be sitting behind their electronic device completing the inappropriate action.

“It is easier in the privacy of your own home with no one watching you,” Klansek said.

He also said that there is not one type of student that sticks out or seems more vulnerable than another. He said that with cyber bullying, it usually ends up being between two former friends where the one wants to get back at the other.

He said, “It is very rare that you find a cyber bullying incident where a student is targeting an unknown student based on their differences.”



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A European photo journal: Days 6-8

(This is part two of a four part blog post about my class trip to Europe. Days 1-5 can be found by visiting my previous blog post)

Day Six: Bidding a heartfelt adíos to Spain, my school group and I groggily boarded our familiar coach bus at seven in the morning for a four hour journey into France.

At this point in the trip, it was safe to say that a good majority of us were sleep deprived and nursing sore feet from countless walking tours. But these discomforts didn’t seem as unbearable when blessed with the fact that we were traveling through a European countryside at 85 km/ph (isn’t the metric system great?). Even so, I couldn’t help but drift off into sleep for the majority of the ride. Back home, you drive for three hours and end up in Manhattan. In Europe, you drive for that long and you end up in a different country. Imagine my surprise when I opened my eyes again and all the road signs were in French, not Spanish.

Our first stop of the day was Carcassonne, France.


The first signs of settlement in this medieval town have dated all the way back to 3500 BC. Like most other towns during this time, they surrendered to the power of
Roman rule. Carcassonne was the subject of IMG_2915much territorial feuding due to its impressive fortress capabilities.

Inside the towering walls is a sprawling city of houses, stores and restaurants, all clumped together in typical European fashion. At the far side of the city is a gothic cathedral, the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, a nationally recognized monument in France.


It was first built in the sixth century and was even blessed by Pope Urban II in 1096. The greatest thing about visiting churches like these in Europe is that you don’t have to be religious to appreciate their history or beauty.

IMG_2920Later on in the day, after having an afternoon free to shop and eat, a few of the people in my group and I took the opportunity to explore the grounds. Being surrounded by the ancient brick pillars of the castle almost made me feel like I was touring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Well, almost.

By five o’clock, it was time to climb back on our bus for another four hour journey deeper into the heart of France.

Day Seven: Our first destination of the day was to visit another historic French monument, the Pont du Gard. In English, this name translates to Gard Bridge, after the Gardon River which this colossal infrastructure is built over top.


The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct constructed by the Romans in first century AD. It is the tallest and best preserved Roman aqueduct bridges. Aqueducts were early forms of the pipes and plumbing we have today. They transported water to towns, providing hundreds of gallons a day to people in an easily accessible manner.IMG_2930
After the Roman empire collapsed, the Pont du Gard still remained in use as a toll bridge (the lowest tier pictured above). Today, visitors are welcomed to walk across this same
bridge like people would have hundreds of years ago in order to cross the river.

And, as a reminder to just how ancient this location is, the right side of the river is home to an impressive 1,000-year-old olive tree (as seen on the right).

While the aqueducts were by far my favorite place to visit in France (I’m a history fanatic. I can’t help it), our second destination of the day was a close runner up.

The French Riviera has long been regarded as a wealthy stretch of beautiful resort-claimed coastline that movie stars and billionaires flock to on vacation. One of the more highly acclaimed towns is Nice, which is oddly enough pronounced like the word niece. However, it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.

IMG_3010The city is right up against the Mediterranean Sea and boasts beautiful architecture, high end stores and classic cobblestone streets. Although, fair warning, while the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean looked inviting, the rocky stretch of beach around it did not. Sand beaches aren’t as common in Europe as they are in America. I could only hope that the ones in Italy would look more inviting.

Day Eight: Our final day in France wasn’t actually spent in France. Instead our group chose to take the optional excursion to spend the day in Monaco.


Monaco is a small country along the French Riviera which is best known for its ward along the Mediterranean Sea, Monte Carlo. If you’re a James Bond fan than you would instantly recognize the Monte Carlo Casino which is one of the richest and most popular destinations in the city.

Monaco’s government is a hereditary monarchy.


The ruling family resides in the royal palace that is constantly under the armed protection

IMG_3032of the palace guards. I was there just in time to see the changing of the guards.

One of Monaco’s more famous royals was the American actress, Grace Kelly. She married Prince Rainier III in 1956 and was then known as the Princess of Monaco. However, in 1982,  a tragic car accident claimed her life and she was laid to rest at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco (pictured on the right).

Her grave was placed alongside former royal family members who had passed away and a single white rose rests on her grave, next to a portrait of her and Prince Rainier III on their wedding day.



For the rest of the day, free time was once again ours, which made for a perfect way to end our time in the French Riviera. The gorgeous coastline and bright colors made me think that I wouldn’t mind being the Princess of Monaco myself someday. A girl can dream, can’t she?


Tomorrow, we would embark on our last stretch of the journey. For once, I was thankful for all of those walking tours because I couldn’t wait to eat my way through Italy.

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The Truth on Teen Pregnancy


Over the years, it’s been proven that teen pregnancy rates are significantly higher in the U.S. than many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, according to the Office of Adolescent Health.

Though teen pregnancy is typically a touchy subject to talk about, Sue Hoffman, the director at Tender Care in Hanover, explains why it really is important to talk about the consequences and responsibilities childbearing comes with.

Sue explained that nationally, only 28 percent of the fathers of the child come to the classes and pregnancy tests with the mother. Most of the time, they are no longer together when they come in.

Sue then began to elaborate on the fact that giving child birth during teen years impacts the development of a growing teenager because their bodies are not yet fully developed. Most women that gave birth during teen years are found to be shorter, their bones don’t finish developing, and most of them had c-sections.

She also said that economically, the younger you are, the less money you’re going to have to support a growing family. Therefore, places like Tender Care receive donations and when a teen mother is in need, they can help her out.

18 percent of girls and women that come in for help and support at places, such as Tender Care, are between the ages of 14-20 year olds, Sue told me.

On Tender Care’s website, it states, “It exists in hope that women will make “a positive choice.” 92% of women planning to abort chose life after their visit with Tender Care.”

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Mandatory service hours: Is it a good or bad thing?

Some student volunteers at Dover Area Community Library come because they want to give back and help out. Others might be there because their school mandated it.


The entrance to the Dover Area Community Library

According to George Matthew, the supervisor and volunteer coordinator for the summer reading program at Dover Area Community Library, required service is favorable for kids in some ways.

“The problem with it is service becomes more of a chore than anything. It’s a ‘have to do’ as opposed to something they are called to do,” Matthew said.
Continue reading “Mandatory service hours: Is it a good or bad thing?” »

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Will new regulations hinder volunteerism?

New state requirements will affect many people, including teens, volunteers, and those applying for a job working with minors. Recent changes to state law now require “comprehensive criminal and child abuse background checks” for employees and volunteers having contact with children.

If you are an employee of child care services, a person 14 or older applying for a paid position working with children, a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children, or a school employee, then you must complete two state background checks and a national FBI background check. The state background checks, Criminal History Record and Child Abuse Clearance, are $8 each and take 10-15 minutes to complete online. However, as of July 25, the fees for these background checks have been waived for volunteers. The third required check, the FBI Federal Criminal History Record, is the most expensive ($28.75) and takes the longest, 2-3 weeks on average to receive results.

However, there is one  exception for the FBI check. If you are applying to be a volunteer or are an employee under the age of 18 and have lived in Pennsylvania for the previous 10 years you may “swear or affirm in writing” that you have not been convicted of any crime in another state that would disqualify you from volunteering.

Continue reading “Will new regulations hinder volunteerism?” »

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