A Special Visit by Special Students


Christine Grupenhoff



Having innovative ideas for his character coaching classes at Kennard Elementary School is nothing new for Steve Scott.  Earlier in the school year he asked his students to think about a way they could utilize the local TV station, QACTV.  They came up with the Character Counts! Showdown along with relevant commercials.

Scott thought about his fifth graders and their transition into middle school.  He realized that some of them might have some questions about what they will experience and maybe have some reservations.  As he explains, “It’s one thing for teachers and administrators to tell the fifth graders all is great but to hear positive things and to be able to ask questions of someone not much older than themselves, I thought may be of some benefit.”

Scott knew a high school student, Holly Lange, a 9th grade student at Queen Anne’s County High School.   He recognized that she would be a good role model for the students and decided to ask her if she would be willing to come to Kennard to discuss character and how important it is to use good decisions when in middle and high school.   A friend of hers, Holly Klenkel, also a 9th grader at the high school, was interested in the idea.  Scott recognized that they were both excellent communicators and successful in their efforts in school.  He invited them to come to the school to speak to the classes of Joanne Carter and Ruth Gilley. 

The session on May 29th went very well with the students asking a wide range of questions of the two girls.  Scott states, “They asked questions about changing classes, homework, lockers, dances and grades.  Questions about character included, ‘What has happened in middle or high school that caused you to make a character decision?  What supports do you have to assist you in making good decisions? Do you think about character and the character pillars when you make decisions?   How often are you confronted with choices where you have to rely on your character to make the right decision?  Is it hard to make the right decision?’”

Klenkel and Lange both enjoyed visiting the two classes.  Klenkel explains that she had Character Counts! from 3rd to 8th grade and Lange also had character lessons in middle school.  When asked about the experience, Klenkel states, “I loved talking to the 5th graders because I remember feeling unsure entering Middle School. The kids seemed relieved to have actual students answer their questions.”  Lange shared in her enthusiasm for the project.  “I think this was a great experience because we got to talk to the students about middle school and I felt like I made them a little more comfortable with going to middle school.  I really enjoyed answering their questions and letting them know there is nothing to be afraid of.”

Scott was impressed with the high school students and their ability to connect the character pillars to the transition into middle school.  Scott continues, “They made sure when they left that everyone understood just how fun middle school would be, how many new opportunities would be available to them, and how important it will be to take care of themselves and others by staying rooted in character.”

Scott is enthusiastic about future plans for visits between high school students and 5th graders at Kennard.  When asked about service learning credit, he explains, “I did not speak to anyone about service learning hours.  It was a hope that maybe down the road they could get credit or that we could create a model that may fit into their service model plan.”

With innovative ideas and Scott’s enthusiasm for Character Counts! we are hopeful that this idea will be encouraged in both high schools.  After the Character Counts! coordinator, Jacki Carter,  met with the two high schools’ principals, Richard McNeal and Denise Hershberger, Carter feels that this could become a viable service learning project.  Stay tuned for the fall.

Character Counts! thanks Steve Scott for his continuing commitment to the students of Queen Anne’s County and the students at Kennard Elementary School.  Special thanks to Holly Klenkel and Holly Lange for sharing your ideas, encouragement and shining character with the younger students. 

For information on Character Counts! contact Jacki Carter at jcarter@qac.org or by calling 410-758-6677.