St. Charles Herald-Guide

Program ‘links’ academics with virtue to improve character

By Jonathan Menard - May 28, 2008

Developing a child's character is an important part of their upbringing and usually determines how successful that child becomes later in life.

Because character isn't something that is usually on the lesson plan, the St. Charles Parish Public School System has partnered with Character Links in an attempt to bring those important traits to the forefront of a child's education.

Character Links is a program that teaches children in grades K-6 a different character trait each week. During that week, all the children in the school work with their teachers on activities that involve that trait. Traits such as honesty, fairness, sharing and responsibility are just some of the 32 traits that are combined with academics to bring those lessons home.

"It works as an academic lesson because the trait has certain activities associated with it," Bonnie Louque, the chief character officer of Character Links, said. "For example, if respect was the trait, students would have to pick synonyms of respect. Or if the trait was integrity, students would use math to determine how much cash they should give back if someone accidentally gives them too much."

Every week, there is a new trait and the principal of each school introduces the trait to the students at the beginning of the week. Not only do students then go over those traits with their teachers, but they also have a take home sheet that is filled with ideas about how they can cover that trait at home with their parents.

In one of the take home sheets that covered the character trait caring, parents are told to talk with their child on Monday about what caring means. On Tuesday, they can then explain to their child various ways that people can care about and help others even if they don't know them. A specific activity is addressed each day, and there are also suggestions, such as taking their children to make a donation at a bank or thrift store.

"The parent then has a basis for conversation that they can support character quality," Louque said. "It's a link from the school board to make good and responsible citizens and a link from the principals and teachers to put those lessons in place. The entire community is on the same page."

The program just completed its second year in the school district and a student representative from each participating school, along with their parents, were honored at a banquet on May 22.

Each school had different criteria for picking their student representative.

"As a teacher, I knew that there are a lot of negative influences in the world and there are a lot of things you can't control," Louque said. "But building good character allows those students to prevail."

School Board President John Smith agreed.

"The large spike in crime is directly linked to the absence of teaching character in schools," he said. "I just want to extend a thank you to everyone that has helped sponsor and work with this program."

The program was sponsored by the St. Charles Parish School Board, Motiva Enterprises and Sheriff Greg Champagne.

The 13 students picked by their schools to serve as representatives are:

Davontez Simmons - A.A. Songy Kindergarten
Jeyla Smith - Allemands Elementary
Megan Schexnaydre - Ethel Schoeffner Elementary
La'Neesha Isaac - G.W. Carver Early Learning Center
Caitlin Mikesell - Lakewood Elementary
Tracy Hilaire - Luling Elementary
Heather Atchley - Mimosa Park Elementary
Dillon DeRoche - New Sarpy Elementary
Bowen Edwards - New Sarpy Kindergarten
Micah Ceaser - Norco Elementary, K-3
Remington Burkhardt - Norco Elementary, 4-6
Joe Kerry - R.J. Vial Elementary
Crystal Quintero - St. Rose Elementary

 Students chosen to represent their respective schools at the Character Links banquet are (Back Row L-R) Tracy Hilaire, Remington Burkhardt, Joe Kerry, Crystal Quintero, Megan Schexnaydre, Micah Cesar (Middle Row L-R) Caitlin Mikesell, Heather Atchley, Di
Students chosen to represent their respective schools at the Character Links banquet are (Back Row L-R) Tracy Hilaire, Remington Burkhardt, Joe Kerry, Crystal Quintero, Megan Schexnaydre, Micah Cesar (Middle Row L-R) Caitlin Mikesell, Heather Atchley, Di