5th-grader honored for honesty, trustworthiness

Sycamore Valley Academy 5th-grader Shania Rojas is someone her classmates and teacher can trust, a virtue that the Tulare County Office of Education recognized in December with a feature on the local news.

“Our motto is, ‘I will do what is right because it is right,’ and Shania definitely follows that honor code to the core of herself,” teacher Erika Chan told Your Central Valley. “She follows the moral compass in that she’s sweet with her family, sweet with her friends, teachers, any adults that come into her life.”

Chan said the 10-year-old stands out from her peers because of her character, and her honesty and trustworthiness, in particular.

“I think trustworthiness is something that a lot of adults can’t say they know a lot of people they can trust,” Chan said. “And I think that if we instill those values today, and kids in my class can learn from that and see Shania as a leader in trustworthiness.”

Rojas told the television station she has a lot to be thankful for—“my family, pets, animals, parents, and this school, my friends and my teacher”—and also the recognition from her school district.

“I never felt that feeling that I won something before,” she said. “I guess I was a lucky one to get it.”

Her friends and family seem to think it had more to do with Rojas’ bubbly personality, and strong character virtues.

“She is honest. She cares for other people’s needs and cares for them,” her father, Rolando Rojas, told Your Central Valley. “She is dedicated to her ideas. She is honest and she really cares about others.”

Classmate Rita Rasner contends Rojas’ “character is special in a way that is hard to explain.”

“She makes everyone feel like they’re family,” Rasner said.

Fellow 5th-grader Ellie Elms put it another way.

“She’s like really nice and really thoughtful of other people,” Elms said. “She is very trustworthy, wonderful, amazing, and exceptional.”

The high praise supports observations about character by University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter.

Hunter, who founded the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book The Death of Character:

Character reflects the affirmation of our commitments to a larger community, the embrace of an ideal that attracts us, draws us, animates us, inspires us.

The pressures of testing and teaching can make it easy to forget to honor the fundamental virtue of integrity, but at Rojas’ California school district students are learning the importance of truthfulness by taking the time to celebrate it.

Educators looking to promote truthfulness and other character virtues in students can gain insight from a guide for teachers offered by the Jubilee Centre for Character Virtues.