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July 30, 2004

'Character Counts' teaches youth ethics

From: Press-Enterprise (subscription), CA - Jul 30, 2004

TRAINING: The California School for the Deaf caps program by celebrating students' good deeds.

01:03 AM PDT on Friday, July 30, 2004

By MARIA T. GARCIA / The Press-Enterprise

RIVERSIDE - Students attending summer classes at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside are getting a dose of morals with their math.

More than 200 students in preschool through high school are participating in "Character Counts" training as part of a campuswide effort to promote character education. Children have spent the past four weeks learning about the importance of traits such as honesty and courage.

They capped the lessons Wednesday and Thursday with an assembly that celebrated students' accomplishments during summer school and reminded children that their behavior should be guided by the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

The school is emphasizing those virtues in everything that students do, from academics to athletics. Educators hope the character lessons will give students a foundation for life, said Clark Brooke, summer school coordinator at the state-run school.

"We've seen a positive impact," Brooke said through a sign-language interpreter. "Instead of just punishing students, we take the time to talk to them, and we also recognize the good deeds."

The school, which educates deaf or hard-of-hearing students from Southern California, has used the program for about two years. Students such as Louie Barrios, 14, are noticing a difference around the residential campus.

"We learn to be responsible," Louie, of Riverside, said through an interpreter. "It's good for our future."

Since the training, students tend to be nicer and more courteous to each other, said Shara Winesburg, a sophomore from Simi Valley.

"Before, I had a little attitude," Shara said through an interpreter.

"Now I'm more respectful."

During a two-hour assembly held Thursday in the social hall, a group of preschoolers applied the six pillars of character to their favorite fairy tales, such as "Cinderella" and "The Three Little Pigs."

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