Sarah E. Williams, Villejoin, Kemberly A. | 7/2/2005 2:27:07 AM
LEESVILLE - The U.S. Army concerns itself not just with its troops, but with the well-being of the soldiers’ families. Character education is a major part of that commitment and tradition, according to LSU AgCenter character education state expert Sarah Williams.
For years, the Army has worked with Boys and Girls Clubs and 4-H, bringing character-building activities to children’s programs on posts around the world.
Now, the Army’s Child and Youth Services unit has formally partnered with Character Counts! to offer a series of special seminars for CYS teachers and youth-service professionals.
Character Counts! currently reaches pre-K to 12th-grade Louisiana youth through the LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development office, which has established the program in all 64 parishes.
Under the direction and leadership of LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Kemberly Villejoin, who is the character education coordinator in Vernon Parish, the AgCenter also has begun a character education program at Fort Polk. Villejoin said the program is diverse and affects everyone from infants to seniors. Several current staff members have had Character Counts! training at the national level, and others are scheduled to receive it.
"Character Counts! is the country’s most widely adopted character education framework and is already active on several Army posts," Villejoin said, adding, "CC!'s common language and proven instructional techniques will enhance the wide array of Army CYS programs and lend them better consistency and predictability."
The coordinator said everyone benefits, especially the children, who receive a communitywide, effective education about the central role of their character in determining the course of their lives and society.
"CYS and Character Counts! are natural partners," Villejoin said, explaining, "Both organizations know that parents have the frontline responsibility to teach their children values, and both believe that other institutions, including schools, play a vital supporting role."
The Army promotes its Core Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Character Counts! promotes values called the Six Pillars of Character, which are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
"These two sets of values are highly complementary," Villejoin said, agreeing with an Army general’s remark that the Six Pillars "operationalize" the Army Core Values. She draws the parallel:
• Trustworthiness = honesty, integrity, promise-keeping and loyalty.
• Respect = honor (valuing self, others, tradition and country).
• Responsibility = duty (in the sense of accountability).
• Fairness = honor (upholding what is right and just).
• Caring = selfless service (placing the good of others before self).
• Citizenship = duty (obedience to established rules and law), selfless service (placing the good of country before self), personal courage (seeking the common good).
Many Army posts participate in Character Counts! With the new formal partnership between the Army and Character Counts!, participation will increase, and the successes will rise, according to Williams.
Many Fort Polk activities are typical of practices across the state:
• Character Counts! activity ideas pervade classroom lessons.
• A Character Counts! bulletin board and reminder posters hang in school hallways.
• Youth teach one another. "Teaching down" is part of the plan. High schoolers help middle schoolers, middle schoolers help elementary pupils and elementary youngsters read to Child Development Center kids.
• Parents participate in lunchtime workshops. These popular sessions help parents learn about the Six Pillars of Character, so they can aid their children’s moral development. The sessions begin with a video of CC! president Michael Josephson discussing values and character education. "It is very interesting and leaves you with a thirst to know more," said lead education technician Carolyn Herren of the Fort Polk Outreach Services Program.
"The Fort Polk program can boast several achievements," Villejoin said. For example:
• In one of the biggest projects, teens made a nature trail. They built decks for outdoor classrooms, bridged creeks, cleared room for picnic tables and set up outdoor musical instruments. At each stop on the trail, the youth placed a marker explaining one of the Pillars of Character.
• Children and families of the Child Development Center collected used eyeglasses for donation purposes.
• Preschool 5 showed its appreciation to the gate guards with "survival kits" that included bottled water, juice and snacks.
• Preschool 3 presented fruit baskets and teddy bears to residents of the Leesville Nursing Home. The children also designed placemats for them.
• One group of youngsters launched Operation Candy Canes, sending the hook-shaped sweets to soldiers in the Middle East.
• Preschool 1 gave toys, mittens, gloves and children’s underwear to the Leesville Women’s Shelter.
• Preschool 3 sang Christmas carols at the Leesville Nursing Home last year and were invited back for this year.
• Other youngsters performed a skit and sang a Character Counts! song for the nursing home residents.
Character education materials and services are available to school personnel, parents and concerned citizens from the LSU AgCenter at www.lsuagcenter.com. Click on the 4-H clover and look for the Character Education section.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/
On the Internet: Louisiana 4-H Web site: http://www.louisiana4h.org
On the Internet: CC! At Fort Polk: http://www.charactercounts.org/cys/fortpolk.htm
Source: Sarah Williams (225) 578-2196, or SAWilliams@agcenter.lsu.edu
Source: Kemberly Villejoin (337) 239-3231, or KVillejoin@agcenter.lsu.edu