By: Ashley Winterstein
In 1999, a concerned citizen approached the Community Partnerships for Children with concerns about youth violence. At a public forum discussing this issue, it was decided that the focus should be applied to after school programs and promoting character development in local schools. In a proclamation made by the County Commissioners in November 2000, an Advisory Council was formed to partner with the citizens of Queen Anne’s County to embrace and encourage character development in all aspects of our lives.
In the eleven years since that first proclamation was read, the Character Counts! program has grown to be a recognizable force in Queen Anne’s County. Each year, over 100 volunteer character coaches spend fifteen minutes every week sharing lessons of good character with students in every public school in Queen Anne’s County, the Head Start Center, and Anchor Points Academy. In addition, 47 local businesses have registered as Businesses of Character, agreeing to adhere to the Six Pillars of Character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship) and expecting their employees to do the same.
Character Counts! has also grown to include the CommUNITY Mentoring Program, which matches at-risk youth in local schools with reliable, trustworthy members of the community, and the EUDL (Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws) project, which gives students the opportunity to create radio, video, and print messages portraying their views on the dangers of underage drinking for distribution throughout the community.
To celebrate such significant milestones, members of the Character Counts! Advisory Council attended the reading of the 11th Anniversary Proclamation at the November 22, 2011 meeting of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. Jacki Carter, Positive Youth Development Coordinator, expressed her gratitude to the Commissioners for the continued support the county has shown over the years.
Members of the Character Counts! Advisory Council realize that such growth could not be achieved without the support of the community, and therefore recognize a significant partner each year who has encouraged character building throughout the county. This year, in the presence of the Commissioners, Wayne Humphries and Mary Ruth Meredith, Co-chairs of the Character Counts! Advisory Council, presented the Character Counts! Community Award to Mike Olson, President of the Centreville Rotary Club. The Centreville Rotary Club has been an avid supporter of the Character Counts! Program for many years. Several Rotarians are currently character coaches and have been active on the Character Counts! Advisory Council. Since 2005, the Centreville Rotary Club has also sponsored the Faye Lister Teen of Character Scholarship, which is given to a graduating senior who exemplifies the Six Pillars of Character.
The Junior Class Officers from Queen Anne’s County High School were also present at the meeting to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Character Counts! They collectively wrote the Proclamation declaring Caring to be the Pillar of the Month for December and were able to introduce themselves to the Commissioners and hear Commissioner Bob Simmons read their Proclamation aloud. This group of students is one of the first to have grown up with the Character Counts! Program in Queen Anne’s County and all have wonderful stories to share of the relationships and memories made with their coaches over the years.
The Character Counts! Advisory Council would like to thank the County Commissioners, the Centreville Rotary Club, the Queen Anne’s County High School Junior Class Officers, and the many volunteers and supporters of Character Counts! for a successful eleven years and looks forward to continuing the expansion in our county.
If you are interested in becoming a character coach, mentor, or would like further information about the Character Counts! program, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677/2163.