Local schools promote student integrity

Tony Parra

Character and responsibility are what Portales Public School officials are trying to instill in students with a nationwide program implemented in Portales schools.
The Character Counts Organization promotes activities to instill characteristics of a student. Each state and each school has it’s own Character Counts Program, and various schools in each state implement the program.
Every month students are given a word associated with gaining confidence and character. For September students are working with the term “responsibility.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to be community oriented, said Lisa Harrell, a licensed professional clinical counselor for Portales schools. She said the goal of the Portales Public Schools is to create an awareness in the community over the program and the characteristics the words are intended to develop in the students.
“They (Character Counts Organization) recommended that we have more community involvement,” Harrell said. “I agree with that. We want to make sure parents know what the program is about and that the kids have an understanding of the words with everyone’s help.”
Portales has been participating in the Character Counts program every year during Harrell’s six-year tenure working with Portales schools. The program is performed by students in every Portales public school, from kindergarten to high school.
“We have posters and banners around the schools with the words and to make everyone aware of the program,” Harrell said. “Different activities will be assigned at the teachers’ discretion to implement the program.”
One example would be that students would make a list of things they need to do. From the list, students will pick out the top three priorities pertaining to school, family and self.
“I pledge to be a person of character to help others when they need it to be caring, respectful, responsible — to be a good citizen, be fair and trustworthy. I count, you count,” recited Desirie Urioste, a Valencia Grade School fifth-grader. “The pledge teaches you to be a good character. It teaches you to be courteous to other people.”
The objective each day is for the students to accomplish the priorities they selected in regards to the three subjects.
“It helps reinforce the value system,” Harrell said. “We want the students to behave in a certain way when they are at day care, home, church or any other place.”
Urioste said that she had to do the character pledge last year, as well, when she was a fourth-grader.
Character Counts programs throughout the nation are handled in different ways. For instance, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson gives out the Mayor’s Character Counts Award to recognize acts of good character.
The program was developed in the summer of 1992 in Aspen, Colo. Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics held a three-day conference to look for a solution to various social problems. The result was the Character Counts concept.
The six pillars of the Character Counts program have to deal with respect, citizenship, caring, trustworthiness, fairness and responsibility. Those are the six words that Portales students will familiarize themselves with throughout the semester.