Character Counts continues to make strides

DOWNEY - Deeply impressed by the large attendance and enthusiasm evident at Downey's Character Counts Coalition meeting on Oct. 6, visiting CC national director Jessica Berlinski, admitting she has been in the position scarcely more than a year and visiting Downey for the first time, said "I'm blown away by this."What she saw and heard were coalition members representing all segments of the Downey community reaffirming their commitment to the propagation of the six pillars of character-trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship-the six "universal ethical values everyone would feel comfortable [imparting] to young people," the six core values agreed upon at the coalition's birth as a foundation for character development. Representing the City Council, Mayor Mario Guerra said, "The attitude and behavior change we seek is changing our children for the long-term. This will be our legacy for our kids." There were representatives from the other city departments as well (community services, police), from business (Century 21 My Real Estate, Stonewood Center, Downey Federal Credit Union), from YMCA, from youth sports (DJAA, AYSO), with the largest representation coming from the Downey Unified School District (administrators, principals, teachers) and PTA. "Wendy Doty started this thing," said Guerra. Superintendent Doty is the Downey CC Coalition chair, and conducted the meeting. Jessica Ellis, CC associate director and chief resource person of the meeting, provided the meeting's major thrust: she came with all sorts of planning, action plan, reference-checking, and employee appraisal checklists, meant to underline and "institutionalize" desirable behavioral traits. Doty and the attendees had a field day with the issue of responsibility. "Would a Bill Clinton or a David Letterman have done what they did had they had a behavioral checklist?" "How about someone seeking public office? Wouldn't this political candidate try to live up to his promises?" Speaking about 'primary goals', Ellis said: "Ultimately, our mission is not to create an awards program or host an assembly. Our goal is to generate attitudes and behaviors consistent with the Six Pillars." Thus, in staging a CC event, "The event may be a means to [some desirable] end, but we must keep sight of the true end," she said, adding: "One must have a clear vision, and clear plans" in the attempt to reach one's target audience. To spur idea-sharing, the attendees formed in small groups to discuss their significant projects. In one group, Phil Davis talked about the Character Counts theme of the Carnival of Champions track tournament at Warren High in the spring. Clearly encouraged all around was creativity in injecting Six Pillars awareness in every area of human activity whenever feasible (in school projects, in assemblies, in parades, in promotional items, etc.). At one point, Doty said: "If you've got tacky signs, take them down" [And replace them with something more CC-appropriate]. In this connection, in observance of the upcoming Character Counts Week, somebody volunteered that Ralph's is planning a Character Counts tie-in at its Downey store. Downey's Character Counts Coalition is alive and well.

********** Published: October 16, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 26

FeaturesEric Pierce