ANDERSON — Jasiah Deloney clutched a fistful of trading cards in his hand as he listened to six high school athletes talk about the importance of values.
Each card featured one of the local athletes.
“You have to get good grades and be a good student before being an athlete.” said Deloney, 10.
About 90 fifth-graders formed small clusters around the cafeteria of Eastside Elementary on Tuesday as high school students from Anderson shared how they practice the Six Pillars of Character when playing sports. The athletes also stressed how being a good student is part of having good character.
The discussion was part of a touring Character Counts program that is taught in schools, agencies and organizations nationwide. The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Around the room, eager hands were raised high by the adoring elementary students in response to questions asked by the athletes who were being treated like rock stars by the students. Morgan Nadaline, 17, is an athlete in the program, but she understands how the students feel because six years ago she was one of the elementary students attending the program.
Nadaline, who plays golf, happily answered the questions students volleyed at her and shared her thoughts on how being an athlete promotes citizenship.
“You have to get along with people and it teaches you to be a better person,” she said. “It also teaches you to play by the rules and follow directions.”
Nadaline was joined by fellow Anderson High School athletes: Jordan Hill, baseball; Da’Sha Boyd, basketball; Tyler Davidson, swimmer; Kaira Jackson, softball; and Weston Bell, football.
According to the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, the program has been shown to improve academic performance, reduce discipline problems and improve attendance rates. In a study by the institute, more than 96 percent of the teachers surveyed said the program helps to build students’ character and about 94 percent would recommend the training provided through the program to others.