$2.1M commitment to Georgia character education program

Business and school leaders in Bibb County, Georgia, want to ensure every student has the tools to form the habits that form good character, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is to make it happen.

The OneMacon Business Education Partnership teamed up with Bibb County schools to launch a fundraising campaign in March, and officials announced this month that they’ve raised $2.1 million to expand a pilot “Leader in Me” character education program to all of the district’s elementary and middle schools over the next four years, The Telegraph reports.

“Believing and doing require a lot of effort, and you all have made a lot of investment in this community,” said Blake Sullivan, Business Education Partnership co-chairman, at an assembly at Vineville Academy in early November. “We’re going to have some of the best schools in Georgia.”

District officials implemented the Leader in Me program at two local elementary schools during the 2015–16 school year, and expanded the program to two others last year. The new funding means it will now roll out in the remainder of the district’s elementary and middle schools in coming years, superintendent Curtis Jones said.

The program was developed by Sean Covey, with the FranklinCovey company, in 2009, and it’s based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a book penned by Covey’s father, Stephen Covey. FranklinCovey also donated 10% of the $2.1 million fundraising goal, with the rest coming from other businesses and community donations.

The Leader in Me program, which concentrates on changing the culture and climate of schools, is already in place in 3,500 schools in 55 countries, according to the news site.

“It’s a systematic approach to building 21st century skills in children and in staff members and in the community,” Covey said, adding that he hopes the Bibb County program will provide a model for other communities to follow. “There’s so much instability in the world today. You need a framework of your own and a set of core principles to found yourself on and skills, like taking responsibility, goal-setting, resolving conflict. This is basic blocking and tackling of being an effective and happy person today.”

Jones said the Leader in Me program is designed to change how students think, with the hope that they’ll carry the message into the community.

“It allows our students to really learn how to display strength of character,” he told The Telegraph. “Those words are easy, but how do you do it? Students are asking, ‘What do I do?’ Now we say, ‘You can practice the seven habits and that will help you demonstrate strength of character.’”

The habit-forming approach to good character certainly isn’t anything new, but rather a tradition that dates back to the famed philosopher Aristotle.

“It makes no small difference . . . whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth,” Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, “it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.”

The Leader in Me program offers sample resources at TheLeaderInMe.org for educators interested in the habit-forming curriculum.

“With over 40 age-appropriate activities in each activity guide, teachers can use the activity guides to introduce and teach the 7 Habits and other foundational leadership concepts to elementary students,” according to the site. “These activities are aligned with Education Standards and with skills for the 21st Century. The lessons in the guides are flexible and can be assigned daily, semiweekly, or weekly according to the available time in each classroom.”