Sevastopol Implements Character Strong at all grade levels

Sevastopol Implements Character Strong at all grade levels

With the start of the 22-23 school year, all grades at Sevastopol School are using a new program called Character Strong. This program helps build connections between students and their peers and students and teachers while also giving them a sense of community in their own school.

Character Strong guides students and teachers through a series of questions and activities to build their understanding of each other and themselves. Activities include goal-setting, coping methods, friendship, kindness, empathy, and more. It allows kids to talk about things that would otherwise be out of their comfort zone or seem unimportant. 

“It [Character Strong] helps me understand my peers more,” sophomore Bella Hodowany said. “I never really get a chance to talk about these topics with my peers otherwise.”

Not only is it important for the students, but it benefits teachers as well. It allows teachers to see how students are affected and what they go through every day. One essential aspect is the delivery. 

“The educator has to become vulnerable for it to benefit our students,” Middle and High School Principal Troy Schaefer said. 

It is difficult for students to understand the importance of the program if their teachers don’t show how important it really is. Teachers are encouraged to become vulnerable and dive deep into the activities so that students can get quality results from it. 

While many students have found Character Strong lessons valuable and beneficial, others feel it is not contributing to a change of actions or behaviors in our school.

Some students describe it as a waste of time and money with no results. Character Strong is used during the high school resource period, a time when students are allowed to take a break, talk with teachers or peers, or eat a snack. Nothing else is expected of them during this time, so it is used for this program. Students give up one resource period a week to complete character-strong lessons.

Another concern to students was the cost of the program. Rumors have spread, stating that “Character Strong cost the school $10,000,” and comments have been said regarding other areas of the school that could benefit from the money instead. But, as Character Strong is the number one social-emotional learning program in the country, our school found it necessary.

Our middle and high school Character Strong program cost the school about $4,000 this year for all seven grades. That roughly costs $570 per grade; if you average 40 people per class, it would cost the school $14 per student. After one year, the program costs $1,000 to renew for middle and high school. And that would be less than $5 per student.

Is there a price you can put on bettering the character of human beings?

“At the end of the day, what type of person you are is what matters,” English teacher Mindi Vanderhoof said. “Are you going to help someone in need? Are you going to do the right thing even when no one is watching? That is what matters. That is what changes the world.”

In the end, to create change and see a difference, students must commit fully. Like anything, the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.