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.
Tami Plummer, a fifth-grade teacher at Eastside, echoed the findings of the report.
“I think it’s great for students,” she said. “They can see what they can do in high school and how their character and behavior, now, can help them succeed in life.”
The importance of character development like Character Counts has been increasingly emphasized by both athletic associations and communities.The NCAA, for example, has a character development program called the CHAMPS/Life Skills Initiative and the White House has promoted a “National Character Counts Week,” which is Oct. 20-26.
The Character Counts program was started locally 13 years ago and is now taught to about 20 schools in Madison County, said Dan Sager, a former Anderson YMCA executive director who coordinates the school visits. He said showing students how the Six Pillars of Character are used by the athletes will hopefully inspire the students to follow the role models.
“These athletes are outstanding examples,” Sager said.
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The Six Pillars of Character Trustworthiness Be honest • Don't deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends, and country Respect Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements Responsibility Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act -- consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others Fairness Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don't take advantage of others • Don't blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly Caring Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need Citizenship Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer Source: www.charactercounts.org