By: Ashley Winterstein
Ten years ago 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. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the nine short years since that first proclamation was read, the Character Counts! program has grown to over 100 volunteer coaches that visit classrooms in our public schools in Queen Anne’s County. Character coaches spend fifteen minutes each week sharing lessons of good character with students in Pre-Kindergarten through Seventh Grade, Ninth Grade, the Alternative School, Family Support, and will soon be visiting the Head Start Program and the Judy Center.
To celebrate this milestone, members of the Character Counts! Advisory Council attended the November 23, 2009 meeting of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. Jacki Carter, Character Counts! Coordinator, and Wayne Humphries, Character Counts! Advisory Council Chairman, expressed their gratitude to the Commissioners for the continued support the county has shown over the years.
Carter shared with the County Commissioners that there are tangible indications that the countless hours of volunteer effort have been effective in our county. She stated, “The Maryland State Department of Education’s five year study shows that our students have improved in academic achievement, school attendance, and behavior. The Six Pillar Personal Inventory has shown decided improvement in the practice of the six pillars in our community, especially among our 10-15 year olds in regard to respect.”
Members of the Character Counts! Advisory Council realize that these changes could not have been 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, Humphries presented the Character Counts! Community Award to Angie Price, editor of the Bay Times. This popular Kent Island based newspaper has continuously made room for Character Counts! articles and news releases since the creation of the program. Their support has increased awareness that character does indeed count and maximized the exposure of Character Counts! activities to the citizens of Queen Anne’s County.
Mrs. Coppage’s 2nd Grade Class from Centreville Elementary School was also present at the meeting to celebrate the 9th anniversary of Character Counts! They collectively wrote the Proclamation declaring Caring to be the Pillar of the Month for December and were able to hear Commissioner Eric Wargotz read the Proclamation aloud. The class followed with a performance of a popular Character Counts! song.
Carter is excited about the progress of the Character Counts! program and believes, “This initiative has grown through the support of its volunteers, the County Commission, businesses, Board of Education, and the community. According to Marcel Proust, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” That is what occurred in this county with the beginning of Character Counts! We are always finding new ways to build our character, which is a continual growth. We have come a long way in this community effort.”
The Character Counts! Advisory Council would like to thank the County Commissioners, County Administrator John Borders, the Bay Times, Angie Price, and the many volunteers and supporters of Character Counts! for a successful nine years and looks forward to continuing the expansion in our county.
If you are interested in becoming a Character Coach, especially for the Head Start Program or Judy Center, or would like further information about the Character Counts! program, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677.