By Kim Uslin
Elm Staff Writer
As everyone knows, Washington College is full of characters. The diverse student body is forever asserting itself in new and different ways, whether through arts, athletics, or academics. Character, however, means more than what one does. It is who one is as a person, how he or she relates to the world around them.
Kent County’s branch of the Character Counts! program recognizes the importance of this character. Founded nationally in 1992, the independent non-profit organization works to provide character education in local schools and the community.
“The program offers educational tools and support to community members who desire to make a difference in the lives of children in their schools and communities,” said Madhu Sidhu, the executive director and program development manager of Character Counts!.
Each week, volunteer Character Coaches educate Kent County Public School students from pre-kindergarten through ninth grade on the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Through these lessons, the students come to understand not only the importance of character, but how to exemplify the six pillars in their everyday life.
“The strength of the program lies in the work of the volunteer character coaches,” said Sidhu. “Volunteers are the engine that drives this character education program.”
Last semester, approximately 25 WC students from the athletics, education, and English departments worked with the Character Counts! program. Most students volunteer for a semester, but others choose to remain with the program for a year or longer.
“I think the program is important because it provides students with positive role models. It also teaches students values that they might not be taught at home, or reinforces the ethics that they are being taught at home. It gives students a chance to reflect on the virtues that they will need to live happy lives in a larger community. I believe that if any of us want to live in a world full of polite, honest, and responsible citizens, we have to embrace the challenge of teaching our children those important virtues,” said senior Jacqueline Hertz.
College students are a particularly valuable asset to the program.
“College students make great messengers [because] going to college is a good choice,” said Sidhu. “The young students admire them because they are in college.”
While pleased with current participation, however, the administration of Character Counts! is always looking for more volunteers who embody the six pillars. Currently, the program has approximately 120 Character Coaches in more than 90 classrooms.
“I think that anything our generation can do to help the next generation is absolutely critical. A friend of mine, Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who passed away in Iraq a couple of years ago used to say, ‘If not me, then who?’ This is something that I shared with the class, and its sole purpose was to stress that doing the right thing in small situations is critically important. ‘If not me then who?’ is more than a question, it is a reminder that in any given situation we must make the right life decisions so that others will follow our lead. This is exactly why programs like Character Counts are essential to any community,” said sophomore Will Rate.
For more information, please visit charactercounts.org or cckentmd.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Sidhu to volunteer.