In the nearly two years that I have had the privilege of being the National Director of CHARACTER COUNTS!, rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me: What is CHARACTER COUNTS!?
In nearly every case, I first respond with what we are NOT.
CHARACTER COUNTS! is NOT a curriculum, an add-on, an out of-the-box program, or a quick-fix fad. It is NOT posters, quotes and cute slogans used to dress up school hallways, and it is NOT the singular solution to fix every behavioral issue a school or youth-serving organization encounters daily.
It IS character education that works with your needs and preexisting programs. It IS a framework that easily blends in with every curriculum, standard or school policy. The program allows teachers to integrate the formation of values and character development into their lesson plans and daily activities. It enables schools to achieve the positive climate and culture they seek. And it IS done organically, not forced or compelled, but seamlessly integrated into every phase of the school, classroom, activities and interaction with the students, parents and community.
CHARACTER COUNTS! improves the lives of the adults who teach it — and the communities that embrace it. It is a values-based, comprehensive student development system. It helps schools achieve a positive learning environment and culture. And it helps schools and communities work together to reinforce positive behavior in young people.
CHARACTER COUNTS! gives kids a framework for ethical living.
Simply put, we help kids make better choices to make everyone’s life better.
In the past few days, I have communicated with educators and youth leaders from all over the country. In these conversations I learned of several great events and activities schools and communities are doing with our program.
–Poway USD in San Diego, CA, recognized students in their annual Character and Ethics Film Festival.
-In Tulare, CA, the Tulare City School District is holding its annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Student Recognition Dinner.
In Phoenix, AZ, I met with leaders of the Arizona Department of Education updating them on the new CC! 4.0 opportunity for their schools to have the best possible character education program.
In Sullivan, IL, community leaders are meeting this week to hear a presentation by our senior faculty member, Dr. Gary Smit on the benefits of creating a community-wide CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition.
When I see or hear of all these amazing things that schools and other organizations using our program are doing, I am reminded of a scene in the movie, The Bucket List, where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are sitting atop the pyramids in Egypt and Freeman tells Nicholson the Egyptians believed that when they died their souls gained entrance into heaven based on how they answered two questions:
1. Have you found joy in your life?
2. Has your life brought joy to others?
When I see kids becoming better adults in part because our program is being used in their schools and communities, I feel great joy. When I see the smiles on the faces of the kids, the teachers, parents and anyone who interacts with these kids, I believe our program brings joy to others and I am proud to be its leader.
So, while Jack Nicholson struggled to answer Question 2, when it comes to our program, I can confidently respond to both questions with a resounding YES!