Character Coaches Needed at Head Start and Judy Center Programs

by Ashley Winterstein

The Character Counts! Program in Queen Anne’s County will reach a milestone anniversary later this year. In 10 short years, the volunteer count has grown to 111 character coaches that visit local schools every week, 31 Advisory Council Members, and 47 Businesses of Character throughout the county.

This year, the Advisory Council is hoping to achieve another goal of incorporating Character Counts! into both the Judy Center Partnership and the Head Start Program. The groups reside together in the former Grasonville Elementary School in order to assist the community effectively and efficiently.

The Judy Center Partnership is a collaboration of many different agencies within the county. Their shared goal is to prepare young children for school and the tasks that will be expected of them in the classroom, both academically and socially. Because of the strong network of organizations working together, the Judy Center is able to offer early childhood education, family support, and health programs – all of which are essential to children’s future success in school.

When the Judy Center opened its doors in 2001, they were aware that approximately one-third of the students at Grasonville Elementary alone were not prepared for the tasks expected of them. Knowing the strong correlation between this un-preparedness and behavior problems, the Judy Center began offering programs such as family case management, events for children in the community, support groups for both parents and children, and speakers on an assortment of key topics.

The Head Start Program also strives to prepare children for success in school and focuses on three and four year olds who meet federal income guidelines. The program concentrates on nutrition, with a breakfast, lunch, and snack offered each day, educational activities such as learning letters, numbers, shapes, and colors, polishing social skills, developing proper hygiene, and drug prevention.

Also recognizing the importance of family involvement, the Head Start Program “fosters the parents’ role as the principal influence on the child’s development and as the child’s primary educator, nurturer, and advocate.” Parents are invited to be participants in the classroom and are also asked to contribute to policy review, developing plans, and staff approval within the Head Start Program.

The positive impact both programs have on members of the community is immeasurable. Incorporating Character Counts! into the curriculum will only improve the lasting effect these efforts have on local children. Members of staff from both organizations have attended Character Counts! presentations and received materials for building character at this young age level.

Now the Character Counts! Advisory Council is looking for volunteers from the community interested in serving as character coaches. The Judy Center needs volunteers who can attend twice each month and share lessons of good character with the students. The Head Start Program is hoping to operate similar to the school schedule, with coaches visiting once per week for around 15 minutes to share lessons with their students.

If you may be interested in becoming a character coach or would like more information, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or jcarter@qac.org.

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