Circle of Excellence Seeks to Expand

It has been said that from deeds grow habits whi ch culminate into character and it is this, character, which u ltimately serves as the foundation for our destiny. Area students (g rades K through 12) are destine d to focus more on that foundation thanks to a new initiative designed to complement traditional school curriculum with lessons on character building.

Currently being launched throughout the Collier County School System, local businesses and organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club, this new emphasis on excellence of character is spurred on by the spinning explicat ions within a device described as “The Circle of Excellence.”

With its piechart panoply of colors, the Circles may resemble something from Wheel of Fortune, but in this case, designated values are reflected in terms of desirable virtues; ideals that include loyalty, honesty, respect and respon sibility.

The mechanism rotates such that each month of the school year corresponds with a particular character trait.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their understanding and application of thes e virtues, just as teachers are encouraged to incorporate their own means of imparting character building lessons within the framework of their respective academic programs.

Working together with Dr. Leonard Ferenz, an International College Philosophy Professor and Director of The Center for Ethics, The Character Council of Collier County conceived and developed the program.

Dr. Ferenz says the initiative helps fulfill several community prerogatives.

Florida is one of only 10 states where schools adhere to a legislative mandate to develop character education curriculum.

Florida State Statute Title XLVIII, Chapter 1003.42 requires the curriculum stress a range of qualities; everything from patriotism, citizenship, kindness, selfcontro l and charity, to respect for life, liberty and personal property and more.

Dr. Ferenz says this initiative supports tha t instruction, but is also design ed to further Collier County’s comportment as a Community of Character.

Collier is one of four Florida counties distinguished as such by the International Association of Character Cities (IACC).

In 2001, the Collier County Board of Commissioners created the Community of Character Council to further goals relative to their IACC affiliation and to day, the Character Council functions as a nonprofit organization dedicated to character education.

For that education to be effective, the IACC indicates it must be included within the entire school community.

To that end, Dr. Ferenz advises that a variety of areas businesses (including sponsors like Ritz Carlton Resorts, Iron Stone Bank and International College) have pledged to display the Circles of Excellence so employees (especially those who are parents) ca n better monitor what students are learning.

“The goal is to have a community on the same page,” says Dr. Ferenz.

“The Circle of Excellence helps bring greater visibility to an ongoing campaign, and also helps ensure the community understands what information is being taught in the public schools.”

Dr. Ferenz further indicates that local organizations who adopt t he progra m are equipped with assessment tools.

The process involves a strategy similar to that devised by Benjamin Franklin in his legendary effort to em body 13 virtues.

Franklin kept a meticulous record of his daily actions in a log comprised by ink dots. Each dot represented an occasion where he had behaved less virtuou sly than he had wished. Over the course of time, Franklin monitored these dots to determine greater or lesser frequency of incide nt.

Dr. Ferenz says staff will be monitoring activities within their organizations in a similar manner as a means of gauging how youth is responding to the emphasis on virtuous character traits.

“We hope to make young people, and really all pe ople in our community, focus more on their behavior and how it impacts their relationship with others, with the environment, and with the world at large,” says Dr. Ferenz.

As for the Circles of Excellen ce, he hopes to expand their circle of influen ce by finding other area businesses, organizations and schools (including those in Lee County) who may wish to participate in the initiative.

He and the Character Council will continue working to bette r ensure that what g oes around comes around.

For more information about the initiative or how to receive a Circle of Excellence display, contact The Character Council of Collier Coun ty at (239) 4030685.

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