Character Council targets local youth

The word ‘character’ has many meanings. Regarding a person’s character, it is a culmination of factors. It is the moral and ethical quality a person upholds. It is all traits an individual possesses that make up their nature. It is the qualities and habits someone gains from their choices, behaviors and attitudes.

In May 2003, a community meeting was held in Cortez to determine the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, violence and other issues. It was understood that these things occurred because of one’s decisions due to poor character and the family should be the core for character advocation.

Headed by Dennis Story, director of the Montezuma County Social Services office, the Four Corners Character Council was officially established on April 1, 2004. The FCCC meet the first Thursday of every month. They have 20 active members on the council and their meetings are open to the public.

The social services office is a heavy hitter for the program. At least six employees constantly volunteer their time to participate in the FCCC. Their main focus is to have a direct affect on the future of Cortez — the future that lies in the hands of our youth.

“I personally feel that the youth of Cortez have good character traits they just don’t know how to utilize them,” said Juan Soto, a FCCC member and social service worker. “There is so much peer pressure and media pressure that discourage them and that’s why we’re here. To help them figure out how to use them.”

The council actively participates in the community by sponsoring and taking part in various events. This year they sponsored the kids parade at Escalante Days, they participate in the Parade of Lights every year and they work side-by-side with other organizations such as the Student Collaboration Youth Coalition (SCYC) to help reach into the community and educate teens about their major life decisions.

Every month for the past four years, they have held an essay contest for Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek and Mancos high schools, that correlates with their monthly character trait. They give a monetary prize of $50 to the winner, one from each school, and all other participants receive a thank you letter from the council. At the end of the year, they choose one winner from all of the area schools.

“When kids develop good character, they keep that as an adult,” said Kelli Unrein, a member of the FCCC. “Those traits are important because they are our future. We want to get them to think about these traits and whether or not they have them or if they know someone who does.”

Once a year the FCCC team up with the SCYC’s Teammates program to have an essay contest designated for high school students. This year the essay was written on determination.

The first place winner, Brittney Peacock, received a Kindle Fire and the second place winner, Kyerstin McNutt, received a $50 gift card. The essay was written about a person they knew who was a good role model for promoting good character and why.

“We feel it is good for students to write down or create something that involves good traits as a way to reinforce that connection,” Soto said.

Both Soto and Unrein are directly involved with the recruiting and engaging of students to progress the character council’s goals. Each month they sit with counselors or principals to discuss the direction of the essay contest. Then they place flyers in teacher’s boxes and around the schools to help promote the trait of the month.

For their 2012-2013 incentives, they are hoping to hold assemblies or small classroom lectures to get more students involved.

“We don’t always tell kids, ‘that was a responsible thing you did and thank you for that’, we say things like, ‘that’s cool, thanks’ so they aren’t putting the two together. We are trying to help them realize what those traits are and why they should feel good about them,” Unrein said.

Next year, they will be using their grant funds to start integrating elementary kids into their character programs and projects to help reach children at an even younger and more critical age.

For more information on the Four Corners Character Council, their programs and their community involvement, contact Story at 564-4105 or Soto at 570-9488. Its next meeting is Thursday, Dec. 6.

Visit the cortezjournal.com to read past articles the character council has submitted regarding positive character building.

rachels@cortezjournal.com