WRUS Masquerade Gala Honors its First “Great Blue Heron” Award Recipients

Wye River Upper School (WRUS) presented its newly minted Great Blue Heron Award and WRUS Alumni Achievement Award to two individuals at the School’s “Masquerade Gala: Unmasking Achievers with Learning Differences,” hosted at its Centreville location and attended by 150 guests.

The School, which is celebrating its 15th year of educating bright high school students with learning differences, hosted the gala to highlight the accomplishments of Alumna Chloe Tong, of Easton, Maryland and Parker Seip, of Raleigh, North Carolina. The Great Blue Heron Award is designed to honor individuals who have used their strengths and passions to achieve personal and professional goals, and provide leadership and service to their communities.

Students at Wye River present the Great Blue Heron awards to Chloe Tong and Parker Seip.

The School’s Great Hall was festively decorated in a black and gold masquerade theme with an impressive art-installation of a mask (created by WRUS students) suspended from the ceiling. The Gala brought together parents, WRUS alumni, Board members, Town Council, donors, and faculty and staff. Guests enjoyed live music, a silent auction and other fundraisers, cocktails and heavy hors-d’oeuvres donated and served by local restaurants and caterers, including Magnolia Caterers, The Narrows Restaurant, Smokehouse Grill, Doc’s Riverside Grille, Fisherman’s Inn & Crab Deck, Krave Courtyard, Austin and Guy Spurry, and the Chesapeake Culinary Center.

“Almost as soon as we had established the award concept and criteria we knew we had two very strong candidates, Chloe Tong and Parker Seip,” says Chrissy Aull, Executive Director of WRUS, who conducted the award presentations. “With support and opportunities to pursue their goals, both Chloe and Parker learned to use tools and strategies to get around their learning differences. They are both shining examples that students facing challenges do not need to miss out on pursuing their passions.”

Chloe graduated from WRUS in 2010 and went on to attend Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she graduated in 2014 with a degree in dance. After a few months of traveling in Europe, she moved to Australia to work as a nanny while pursuing her love of dance and rowing. Now employed by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Chloe is an integral member of the CBMM staff. She has worked in a variety of roles and more recently has become certified as a backhoe operator, training others in this operation. Chloe has also worked to found the Eastern Shore Community Rowers, a nonprofit organization. She continues to dance and choreograph productions for area dance companies. Together with fellow dancers Tong has created another 501c3, Continuum, a dance company for which she serves as artistic director, choreographer, and dancer

Chloe has one more major undertaking in progress: She is taking lessons to become a licensed as a helicopter pilot. A love of flying is something Chloe shares with fellow Great Blue Heron Award recipient, Parker Seip.

Guests enjoy the Masquerade Gala in the School’s School Great Hall.

Parker, the son of Easton residents and longtime friends of WRUS – Tom and Alexa Seip, attended the Winston School in Del Mar, California, a school like WRUS which is designed to support the strengths and needs of students with learning differences. As his parents are quick to note, “All Parker ever wanted to do was fly airplanes.” Upon graduation from Winston, Parker earned a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Flight Operations from Daniel Webster College. He later became an instructor for the college, and he earned his Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) status from the Federal Aviation Administration. Now with years of commercial flight experience, Parker is employed by a major commercial airline as First Officer on the Airbus 320 and 321, a craft which accommodates 220 passengers. He and his wife Amy and their two young children reside in North Carolina.

The School’s financial aid program will benefit from the Gala proceeds which include generous sponsorships by Alan and Penny Griffith, CS/2 LLC, Don and Debbie Pusey, Miles & Stockbridge, Richard K. White, Jr., 1880 Bank, Harry and Virginia Duffey, Tom and Alexa Seip, Town of Centreville, and Shore United/Wye Financial & Trust.

Wye River Upper School enrolls bright high school students with learning challenges including ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety. For more information, contact Katie Theeke at 410-758-2922, katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org.

Wye River Upper School Explores the Benefits of Mindfulness in Education

The work and mission of Wye River Upper School will be strengthened as the school partners with the WRUS Parent’s Association to provide training for faculty and staff in the Neurobiology of Stress Management, Mindfulness and Meditation Tools for Resilience.

Monica Jordan of Annapolis, is leading the on-site training.  Jordan holds a Master of Education (M.Ed.), and a Master’s Certificate in Mind, Brain and Teaching (MCMBT) from Johns Hopkins University.  Jordan’s research focuses on the consequences of stress overload on the nervous system, mood, learning, behavior, executive function, and overall wellbeing. Her research also encompasses the effectiveness of Mindfulness as an intervention to ameliorate, and as a way to transform our reaction to stressors.

Jordan is providing every member of the staff and faculty with fifteen hours of intensive training as well as guidance and instruction for independent work to be done between training sessions.  After the course is complete, teachers and staff will share what they have learned with the Wye River students.

The WRUS faculty and staff gather in front of the school before one of their Mindfulness Trainings.

“Like most teenagers, our students must manage much more than we of the Baby Boomer or Millennial generation,” notes WRUS Head of School Chrissy Aull.  “Social media being the biggest add-on to an existing list of stressors that include academics, friends, college, and job readiness.  Often students and adults simply miss the joy of the moment or, worse, their stress can be an obstacle to learning.  We think Monica’s research-based approach is an ideal fit for our students and the adults who guide them. The entire staff will better support our students, athletes, and artists by showing them how mindfulness techniques and strategies can be used in their daily lives.”

Research supports the positive impact that Mindfulness has on academics and happiness.  In 2015, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that fourth and fifth grade students that participated in a 12-week mindfulness program had higher levels of attention, better retention, and 15 percent higher math grades than their peers. This was on top of psychological benefits such as lower levels of depression and increased feelings of optimism. (Terada, Y. 2017, Feb. Edutopia.org).

The WRUS faculty expresses enthusiasm at this opportunity.  Veteran teacher Kimberleigh Nichols adds, “Teaching is inherently a demanding job, and when you add stressors from home, it can feel overwhelming sometimes.  This training will give me the tools to manage stress more effectively and allow us to model those strategies for our students and families, paving the way for more creativity and learning.”

Rounding out the partnership amongst WRUS stakeholders, Parent’s Association Kathy Stisted offers, “The WRUS Parents Association is pleased to provide support for the Mindfulness program.  The generous donations of the WRUS parent community during the 2016-17 school year, allowed this seminar to be brought in-house.  We look forward to seeing the results of the training as the lessons learned are put into practice at our school.”

A free Mindfulness Workshop will be offered to the public on December 13, from 7:00pm-8:15 pm at the WRUS campus: 316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD. Visit www.wyeriverupperschool.org for more details. WRUS enrolls bright high school students with learning differences, including ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety.  For more information, contact Katie Theeke at 410-758-2922.

Psychologist Dr. Lauren Littlefield to Speak at Wye River Upper School

Wye River Upper School is pleased to announce that Dr. Lauren Littlefield, psychologist and associate professor, will be presenting on – Building Better Habits: Organization, Planning and Goal Setting Strategies for Adolescents with Executive Dysfunction.

Dr. Littlefield will support parents and other guests in their understanding of executive functioning and methods for breaking old habits and forming new, more effective ones. The audience will be guided in an activity to help them conceptualize executive functions in everyday terms, which will ultimately help them to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. Participants will build an awareness for what individuals with executive skills challenges experience on a daily basis. These individuals include children and adolescents, individuals who have suffered a concussion, and those diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Strategies geared toward supporting the different executive functioning challenges will be offered; for instance, learning is supported by planning ahead, managing time, organizing space, and forming routines. Goal setting and its various barriers will also be discussed.
Dr. Littlefield is a psychologist and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. She teaches Neuropsychology, Psychological Assessment, and Diagnosis and Group Therapy to undergraduate students.

The event is open to the public and will be held Thursday, July 27 from 7pm – 8:15pm at Wye River Upper School located at 316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD 21617. Register for your free tickets by visiting www.wyeriverupperschool.org/tools/speaker-series/.

For more information, contact Katie Theeke at (410) 758-2922 or katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org. Wye River Upper School is an independent, college preparatory school serving bright students with learning differences such as ADD/ADHD and dyslexia. We discover through innovation, develop with rigor and celebrate the strengths of our students, while preparing him or her for success in college, career and life.

Wye River Upper School Welcomes New Board Members

Wye River Upper School (WRUS) is pleased to announce the addition of two new members to their Board of Trustees – Dr. Clayton A. Railey, III and Mrs. Darby Hewes. Both members joined the WRUS Board on July 1, 2017. Their diverse experiences in a variety of educational settings brings new knowledge and perspective to the team.  

Railey currently serves as Vice President for Workforce and Academic Programs at the Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. His professional background encompasses many areas including teaching, conflict resolution, museum studies, school administration, theology, and counseling. He has spent years in academia earning several degrees, teaching undergrads, and learning many languages. Most notably he obtained a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University.

Hewes brings strengths in graphic and fine arts, business management, and teaching. Over the years, she has studied fine arts, architecture, graphics, and education. She earned a B.A. from University of Florida, and a B.F.A. from Washington College. She has also taught photography at Washington College and currently specializes in developing marketing materials for various non-profits. Hewes serves on several boards throughout Kent County. Her past work experience in construction management and engineering also adds an important skill set as Wye River continues to maintain and care for their newly renovated building in Centreville.

“Our Board is fortunate to be welcoming these two talented individuals with extensive and relevant backgrounds. Their combined experience encompasses education, the arts, school administration, and marketing – just to name a few. I could not be more delighted to have their help as we continue to enhance and grow the Wye River program,” said Board Chair, Alexa Seip.

Wye River Upper School serves bright high school students with learning differences such as ADHD and dyslexia. Darby Hewes has been getting to the school over the past few years and she explains, “WRUS is a unique environment where students with learning challenges find their frustration turn into excitement and motivation. Strength based learning with an emphasis on areas of organization, time management and self-monitoring prepare students to succeed in college and future careers.  WRUS is one of these unique places where teens can explore their passions, create goals and build a solid educational foundation for their future.”

The School is located in Centreville, MD, and WRUS students come from several surrounding counties. Transportation is provided to both Eastern and Western Shores. For more information, call (410) 758-2922 or visit http://wyeriverupperschool.org.

Shore Leadership Class Meets at Wye River Upper School

The 2017 Shore Leadership class met at Wye River Upper School in Queen Anne’s County on May 24th for the first of 7 sessions.  Two students from Wye River Upper School greeted and welcomed the class to the completely renovated Centreville National Guard Barracks which Wye River now calls home.

The morning session was facilitated by Dr. Joe Thomas on Leading with Strengths.  The class had completed the Strengths Finder assessment and used that information throughout the morning as they worked with Dr. Thomas.

After lunch, Ms. Chrissy Aull, founder and Executive Director of Wye River Upper School discussed the history of the school and why there is a need for schools like Wye River.  Three students shared their stories and talked about how their learning differences held them back at their other schools but that at Wye River their differences have become their strengths and have helped them to be successful.  The students and Ms. Aull gave the class a tour of the renovated campus. 

Dr. Jon Andes, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore of Maryland Education Consortium, spoke to the class about the State of Public Education in Maryland.  He shared the laws the govern Maryland public education and told the class that each year there is a deficit of more than 2000 qualified teachers in Maryland.  The Maryland colleges are not producing enough teachers and students are not enrolling to become teachers.  Neighboring states are also seeing a decline in their teacher education programs. He also shared that since 1986 the nine counties on the Eastern Shore have been part of the ESMEC consortium which gives them a bigger voice with the legislature and with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Later in the afternoon Marci Leach from Chesapeake College and Bryan Newton from Wor-Wic Community College led a discussion and game show which highlighted the role of Community Colleges in today’s world.  Deborah Urry, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center shared information about the baccalaureate and graduate degrees offered at the Center which is located on the Chesapeake College Wye Mills Campus.

Throughout the day the class focused on how strengths can be used as a focus for leadership development.  The next session will be held in Caroline County in June and will deal with the topic of Rural Health Care.

Free Presentation on Teen Anxiety, Development and Transitions

Wye River Upper School is pleased to announce that Dr. Teresa M. I. Schaeffer, Psychologist at Chester River Behavioral Health, will be presenting Anxiety, Development and Transitions of Teens: Guidance for Families in the Midst of Change.

Both parents and teens experience anxiety in relation to teen growth and development. Dr. Teresa M. I. Schaefer, Licensed Psychologist in private practice for nearly 20 years, will guide parents in understanding the connection between the anxiety(s) of teens, the anxiety(s) of parents, and normal growth and development. She will aid parents in identifying key concepts and strategies for a successful transition from parenting the preteen to launching the young adult.

The event will be held Thursday, May 11 from 7pm – 8:15pm at Wye River Upper School located at 316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD 21617. Register for your free tickets by visiting www.wyeriverupperschool.org/tools/speaker-series/.

For more information, contact Katie Theeke at (410) 758-2922 or katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.orgWye River Upper School is an independent, college preparatory school serving bright students with learning differences such as ADD/ADHD and dyslexia.  We discover through innovation, develop with rigor and celebrate the strengths of our students, while preparing him or her for success in college, career and life. 

Admissions Open House at Wye River Upper School

Wye River students sit on the steps of their school building in Centreville.

Wye River Upper School is hosting an Admissions Open House on Wednesday, April 26 from 6pm-8pm. The event is being held on the School’s campus at 316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD. Students and staff will be presenting and sharing information on the Wye River Experience. Wye River serves students from several Maryland counties including Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline and Kent. Bus service is available to and from Stevensville, Easton and Cambridge.

Wye River Upper School is a college preparatory high school offering an engaging, supportive and challenging curriculum for students with learning challenges like ADHD or dyslexia. For more information, please contact: Katie Theeke, Director of Admissions and Communications at 410-758-2922 or email katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org.


Wye River Upper School Hosts Winter Admissions Open House

Wye River Upper School is hosting an Admissions Open House on Sunday, January 29 from 2pm-4pm. The event is being held on campus at 316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD. Wye River serves students from 7 Maryland counties including Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Kent and Dorchester with bus service to and from Easton, Cambridge, and Stevensville.


Wye River students stand at the entrance to their school building.

Wye River Upper School is a college preparatory high school offering an engaging, supportive and challenging curriculum for students with ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety or other learning challenges.

For more information, please contact:
Katie Theeke
Director of Admissions and Communications
Tel: 410-758-2922
…because not all great minds think alike.

Wye River Upper School’s Board Chair Issues $50,000 Challenge Grant

Alexa Seip, Board Chair of Wye River Upper School, announced a challenge grant to increase financial aid in honor of John and Susan Devlin. She made the announcement at the school’s fall fundraiser celebrating the geographic diversity of its students, who come from eight Maryland counties east and west of the bay. The Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund challenge will match dollar-for-dollar gifts up to $50,000 before December 31, 2016.

Alexa Seip, left, Susan Devlin, middle, John Devlin, right)

Alexa Seip, left, Susan Devlin, middle, John Devlin, right)

This tuition assistance program will go to the heart of Wye River Upper School’s mission––to provide outstanding opportunities for bright students with learning differences, regardless of their ability to pay. When fully funded, the Devlin Fund will enable students, who would otherwise not be able to attend this extraordinary school, to receive the financial support they need to prepare for success in college, career and life.

The Devlins were honored for their long-time commitment to the school. Serving as Board
Chair since 2010, John led the school through two strategic planning processes. Under his leadership, the school conducted a Capital Campaign that relocated the school from Chesapeake College to its home in Centreville, the historic Maryland National Guard Armory.

With several years of fundraising experience, Susan became the first chairperson of the Wye River Upper School Resource Development Committee and played an important role on the committee for the school’s grand opening gala in 2014.

“John and Susan are always motivated by the kids––they work to change the course of a deserving student’s life. Sending a student to WRUS is the ultimate game-changer for a teenager, so the Devlin Family Fund is a perfect way to honor them”, said Chrissy Aull,
Executive Director of WRUS.

“The opportunity to fund the Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund with $100,000 is awe-inspiring and very motivating. So many more students will have the door opened to success and a lifelong love of learning. Wye River Upper School will meet this challenge and I hope beat it,” said Seip.

Contributions can be made here or by check to the Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund at
316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD 21617. Pledge forms are also available at www.wyeriverupperschool.org/support/financial-aid/ For more information, contact Chrissy Aull at chrissyaull@wyeriverupperschool.org

STEM Partnerships Benefit Wye River Upper School Students

A small private school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore thinks that “late bloomers” and students with learning differences can make important contributions in STEM careers—and it’s preparing them to do that with the help of an impressive list of partners that includes nearby Washington College and several local environmental groups, as well as the use of NASA technology.


Wye River freshman Macyn Poag (center) of Bowie, MD handles Estuary Monitoring solution while her peers Bradley Scott (left) of Baltimore, MD and Shaina Moore (right) of Stevensville, MD observe the findings.

“We are firm in our belief that, like scientists and entrepreneurs such as Einstein and Richard Branson, who were/are dyslexic, late bloomers or who learn differently, our students are natural scientists and original thinkers. They are a natural fit for the many new opportunities unfolding in STEM,” said Chrissy Aull, head of school at Wye River Upper School, an independent high school in Centreville, Maryland whose mission is to educate students who learn differently or need a more personalized approach to learning.  “STEM activities naturally lend themselves to the way we teach, which is very hands-on and experiential.”

The partnerships are largely the work of WRUS science teacher and STEM coordinator Dimitra Neonakis, who has turned the nearby Corsica River, the air above it and the land around it into a classroom for her students. In addition to working with Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society (CES), Ms. Neonakis has taken advantage of the school’s relative proximity to Washington, D.C.—only 60 miles away, across the Chesapeake Bay—to participate in professional development and citizen science with federal agencies like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Smithsonian institution. Closer to home, she is working with the Chester River Association (CRA), the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), and the Corsica River Conservancy (CRC).


STEM instructor, Dimitra Neonakis (right) instructs students on how to test water. Wye River students look on (from left to right) – Ethan Shipler of Annapolis, MD, Josh Hansen of Centreville, MD, Sam Braver of Chestertown, MD, and Adam Shipley of Lothian, MD.

The idea of taking advantage of local scientific and environmental groups began in 2014 with a grant from the William and Patricia Fessler Foundation, managed by Mary Ellen and Bruce Valliant of Raymond James, and a buoy named BOB, or Basic Observation Buoy.  WRUS sponsored a BOB, built by CES, to be placed in the Corsica River to collect and digitally return water quality data to a MARACOOS website (Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System), which the students monitor and study.  BOB has been up and running since April 2016, and students in Neonakis’ environmental science class routinely check on the live feed to gauge the ever-changing quality of the estuary’s water. WRUS Junior, Rachel Pearson shared, “The partnership with Washington College to launch the buoy was very exciting. We can monitor the water quality through an app called Smartbuoy. I am very grateful to be able to be a part of something that will be able to help the Chesapeake Bay in the future.”

CES Program Manager Jemima Clark recently visited the environmental science class and led students through the process of analyzing water for pollutants.  A finding of both turbidity (suspended sediment) and nitrates, otherwise known as fertilizer, led the class to a discussion of the sources of the undesirable elements, and a brainstorming session to come up with ideas about possible ways to remove them from the water.

WRUS students also complete water monitoring from nearby Millstream Park, by collecting water samples which they take back to school and chemically analyze. The water data they collect is submitted to the Corsica River Conservancy and the Chester River Association.  CRA’s Tim Trumbauer makes routine guest teaching appearances at WRUS to talk about meaning of their results.

This school year, atmospheric data is being added to the curriculum, thanks to CES and a project using NASA technology known as AeroKat—an instrument designed to launch into the atmosphere and collect data on carbon dioxide and moisture levels as well as infrared and visible light images. The instrument will send back aerial views of the river’s land boundaries, allowing students to observe sediment run-off and attributes that are critical in a healthy watershed. Ms. Neonakis designed curriculum to accompany the Aerokat technology for the Chester River Watershed Observatory. WRUS students will pilot this curriculum before it is shared with teachers in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.

Neonakis and WRUS biology and math teacher, Samantha Reed also lead students on frequent visits to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where students complete lab work with Smithsonian educators. Some students assisted with some micropaleontology research and were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the collections not on public display. At the Smithsonian, students get chance to study the structure and function of the vertebrate skeleton, mineralogy and geochemistry.

Aull credits Neonakis’ passion for science and her eagerness to share STEM with her students—as well as the school’s fortunate location—for the innovative science curriculum. 

Wye River Upper School is a college preparatory high school for students with ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences.

For more information, please contact: Katie Theeke, Director of Admissions and Communications
Tel: 410-758-2922, katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org, www.wyeriverupperschool.org
…because not all great minds think alike