OHS students and staff learn that character counts when building community ties

Promoting civility and recognizing good character is the goal of a group called Character Counts in Iowa. Thursday, the organization visited with a diverse group of students and staff at Ottumwa High School, groups who wouldn't ordinarily interact with each other on a daily basis, to teach them how to work together to pursue victory with honor.

When a student walks down the hallway and recognizes faces, but doesn't know their fellow classmates, or a teacher from one grade or subject has never met a teacher from another grade or subject, it makes it difficult for communication and collaboration to take place. So the goal of Thursday's workshop was to improve on that.

"We're going to try to do some social networking, better ways in which we can communicate with each other, get to know each other, more effective ways in which we can work together once we know each other," said Mark Wills, Program Director at Character Counts in Iowa. "And then do some strategic goal setting and action planning to get to the outcomes that we want to arrive at at the end of the day that will help serve school, student, family, community."

Pursuing victory with honor was the theme, and that can be used in every aspect of community and life.

"We thought that victory could also mean victory in the classroom, it could mean victory on the stage if you're a musical performer, it could mean victory in a lot of different venues, but it's bringing everybody together with that while idea of, 'what does honor look like in a school and in a community?'" said Shannon Vesely, School Improvement Leader for grades 7-12. "So it's our hope to bring kids who normally wouldn't be together outside of their team or their organization, together with a larger purpose."

The hope is that the workshops mission won't stay within the walls of OHS, or even in the Ottumwa community, but will carry on the goal of unity, diversity and victory with honor.

"That it will really benefit students who leave OHS and go onto college or the military or the workforce with an understanding of 'what does it mean to be victorious with honor?'" Vesely said.

"What I hope is that they have been given the first set in a series of tools that will help them on their journey to setting up community-wide events, creating a community of civility and of character," said Wills. "This is a state-wide organization, we don't just serve the Des Moines area, we serve the entire state and the action and the response that we get from the folks of Ottumwa has always been welcome and so any chance we get to serve, we like to do that and we like to come back and be a part of that journey with them."

To learn more about Character Counts in Iowa, visit their website.