Young students in Billings, Montana are soaking up lessons about character and leadership from college athletes they look up to – an initiative aimed at helping students visualize their goals becoming a reality.
The Billings Chamber of Commerce’s Champions of Character program capitalized on Montana’s first opportunity to host a national basketball championship – the 37th National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics women’s tournament – to connect Billings-area elementary students with the athletes they admire, the Billings Gazette reports.
In mid-March, players from each tournament qualifier attended school assemblies, read with area students and played a little basketball with youngsters while sharing the important elements of their success.
“We (asked players) to talk about hard work, character and the importance of education,” Billings Chamber of Commerce Communications Manager Kelly McCandless told the news site.
At Beartooth Elementary, members of the Cumberland University’s women’s basketball team were greeted with enthusiasm as they spoke with students about the values that guides their success.
Few things bolster a school’s moral ecology more than the example of positive peer role models. What makes this initiative so important is that it not only highlighted “cool kids.” But it did so in the context of discussions about specific core values. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found that “The schools seemed generally successful in creating a compelling moral environment and a binding moral order for their students… when students bought into the moral logic of the school.” Student buy-in is critical and this program only serves to enhance this dynamic.
“One by one, the team introduced themselves and explained five core values: respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity and servant leadership,” KULR reports.
“Students in elementary school look up to pros and things like that and take their glorified position and not understand what it takes to get there,” Cumberland player Cydney Goodrum told the news site.
Athletes with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, meanwhile, met with students at Ben Steele Middle School to offer inspiration.
“It’s really cool to see many younger kids wanting to get involved and play,” Oklahoma athlete Becca Worthy said. “We were there once and it’s really cool to see high school and college kids come and show that it’s possible to be where you wanna be and follow your dream, if that’s what you want to do, you can make it happen.”
A total of 3,000 college athletes participated in the NAIA tournament, many stopping in at other Billings schools including Big Sky, Poly Drive, and Highland elementary schools.
For teachers and principals interested in student moral and character formation, information can be found at the UK’s Jubilee Centre website.