High school program works to build integrity

Students at Cleveland’s Fairview High School are clamoring to join the pilot character education program “Because I said I would,” which aims to increase volunteerism by encouraging participants to keep their word.

Alex Sheen, co-founder of the Rocky River-based nonprofit, presented the program to students in November, and officials told Cleveland.com the response was encouraging.

“From the moment Alex finished his talk for the students and staff, the response was overwhelming in terms of excitement and interest,” said Fairview coordinator Grant Graves.

Amanda Messer, another co-founder, said the group wants to make a difference in schools and communities by encouraging students and others to keep promises to help their neighbors in need, and to improve themselves to become better citizens.

“Because I said I would”—which uses the tagline “A promise made. A promise kept.”—launched its pilot project in three schools with strong support from adults in the community.

The first pilot high school chapters will debut at Fairview, Akron’s Buchtel Community Learning Center, and Columbus’ Walnut Ridge High School as a means of developing character in students through service work and positive role models.

“Some students do not receive positive behavior modeling at home at all or not enough,” Messer said. “Whether their parents are fighting their own battles, are uneducated or simply need to work to provide for their family, the truth is that we don’t get everything we need to learn at home.

“Learning English, math and science is incredibly important, but if we’re not educating the next generation to be decent human beings to one another, then what’s the point of it all?”

Graves will select 10 students from each grade to guide and lead each chapter, with the goal of developing Chapter Leadership Teams to handle issues like logistics, fundraising, photo journalism, and communications, Cleveland.com reports.

“We started chapters as a way to create measurable impact on the world through promises,” Messer said. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75 percent of Americans do not volunteer a single hour in a given year.”

Scholar Benjamin Diamond reflected on the foundation of the work of “Because I said I would”—truthfulness—in a column for The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

In the context of UVA’s honor code, Diamond wrote:

A common criticism of honor codes is that integrity ought to be a given. An explicit statement of morality should not be necessary. But UVA’s honor code—in fact, the honor code at any university—is predicated on the belief in students’ essential virtue and that the mission of the university and the individual’s own flourishing are best served when accountability for misconduct rests not with professors but with peers.

By partnering with “Because I said I would,” students in Ohio are learning the value of integrity by taking ownership of keeping their word to help others.

The Jubilee Centre offers the lesson “The Virtue of Truthfulness” for educators who want to challenge their students to develop integrity in and out of the classroom.