It is the time of year when we are kicking off Character Champions. This program is one of my favorites as it helps us to take the Y, and our values beyond our building walls into the schools in our community. Here at the North Canton Y, we are serving students in grades K-8 in the North Canton City Schools, Plain Local Schools and St. Paul’s campus of the Holy Cross Academy. Character Champions are recognized also in Louisville and Jackson Township. This program is in place to reinforce the Pillars of Character that the schools and the Y believe in. (Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.) Last year, the North Canton YMCA alone recognized nearly 1500 character champions at 10 schools between October and May. We culminated the year by inviting these Champions to march in the North Canton Memorial Day Parade and for a fun day at Camp Tippecanoe, both of which were overwhelmingly attended.
Big numbers. Bigger impact.
Often, we hear stories of differences made in the classrooms or for individual kids. Ann Bartley, principal at Barr Elementary School (Plain Local) wrote, “What a wonderful program – a true motivator for students and staff! Students love the recognition for making good behavior choices, the certificates, and the free pass to the YMCA. “ She went on to tell us of one child; “Last year, one of our students was determined to earn a certificate so that she could march in the Memorial Day Parade. She proudly wears her shirt! Character Champions puts the Pillars of Character into action!” These sentiments are repeated as I am stopped by students and parents in the community and want to thank the Y for doing this. Many children chosen are not the scholars or athletes that usually receive recognition
This program is one of the most rewarding and joyful duties I perform. I am often stopped by kids and parents in the community who recognize me from presentations. More often than not, they tell me that this award has special meaning because it speaks to who the child is, instead of what abilities they possess. The program has been running long enough that I have attended graduation celebrations, the character champion award certificate is proudly displayed alongside other awards and achievements. Many times, these students are happy to tell me how it felt to receive this award and exactly why they received it. One of our Leaders Club members, Harrison, who is in 7th grade now, recalls how very excited he would be when Y staff would come into his classroom at Northwood and talk about the Character Values and announce the Character Champion. Though he was always happy for classmates who were chosen, he couldn’t contain himself when his name was called.
In a world where there is so much opportunity to feel negative, it is a wonderful opportunity to look for and reward the positive.