Character counts — here and abroad

Character Counts

Teachers and community leaders learn about trustworthiness, deception, and lies by completing puzzles.

By Lori Greiner

Since 1994, Virginia 4-H has provided training and support for CHARACTER COUNTS!, an education program developed by the California-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, which promotes character education throughout the country.

In 2004, Glenda Snyder, senior Virginia Cooperative Extension agent emeritus, introduced CHARACTER COUNTS! to schools in Brazil. She was invited by Partners of the Americas, a humanitarian organization, to train school personnel and implement character education. At the time, Brazilian school systems were characterized by high rates of violence and crime.

Snyder and a local school principal trained 80 school and community representatives, and CHARACTER COUNTS! was implemented as a pilot program in Brazilian schools. Officials reported positive results such as improved student conduct, decreased violence, more respectful behavior, and increased numbers of parents volunteering.

The relationship with educators in Brazil has grown and developed over the past nine years as Extension faculty members have trained more than 1,000 Brazilian teachers, principals,
and community leaders, which has impacted 70,000 students annually.

Character Counts

Brazilians learn about trustworthiness by working as a team.

The work has expanded to include a Virginia-Brazil teachers exchange, trainings in additional locations in Brazil, and an agreement with Virginia Tech and the University of Santa Catarina for a student-faculty exchange for academics, extension, and research.

While these training efforts have had a positive effect on participants in Brazil, the impact is being felt in Virginia as well. Faculty participants in the exchanges have reported improvements in their training skills and their ability to adapt teaching methods to different audiences. Agents also report a heightened awareness of, and need for, flexibility and creativity when working with diverse audiences, which is increasingly important as Virginia becomes more diverse.

This spring, Snyder and her CHARACTER COUNTS! team of John Blankenship, Tazewell County Office; Jocelyn Dailey, Goochland County Office; Brian Hairston, Henry County/Martinsville Office; Jeremy Johnson, James City County Office; Robert Meadows, state 4-H director emeritus; and Tonya Price, associate specialist for 4-H youth development; were honored with the university’s 2013 Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence for their contribution to promoting the university’s mission of outreach throughout the commonwealth and beyond.