Students put core values into practice

MOUNT PLEASANT — Christ Our King/Stella Maris School is one of 13 elementary schools east of the Cooper River to participate in the Core Essentials program. The effort is sponsored by the area Chick-fil-A restaurant and is “designed to give teachers and parents the necessary tools to educate elementary-aged children about character and values,” according to a Chick-fil-A corporate press release.

The program operates in three-year cycles with nine core values covered during a single school year. The values include initiative, respect, uniqueness, peace, joy, patience, orderliness, kindness, and courage. The students will spend an entire month reviewing the many facets of a single value and are rewarded with a free kid’s meal from Chick-fil-A for displaying the value to teachers and classmates.

“This is an excellent program because it makes the students concentrate on just one value at a time and carry it forward,” said Our Lady of Mercy Sister Stella Maris Craven, principal. “This is very practical and is simple enough for the youngest children to understand.”

Patrick Dickerson, the operator of the Mount Pleasant restaurant, is a firm believer in the program and has made it his passion to implement the program in as many schools as possible within his area.

“I believe that if we live by God-given principles we will reap God-given fruit,” said Dickerson. “This program is unique in that it incorporates all facets of learning — math, English, science, history — at the level of any age group.”

The program was launched by the Chick-fil-A corporate office in a test market in 1999 and went national three years ago after it received an overwhelmingly positive response.

“There are more than 7,000 students east of the Cooper being taught character that weren’t four years ago,” Dickerson said. “Schools are seeing fewer disciplinary and behavioral problems in the past couple of years, which is being directly attributed to the Core Values.”

Another attractive aspect of the program is that schools are provided with materials, including a teacher’s lesson plan guide, a poster listing the nine values for the year, a bookmark listing the month’s value, table cards for the children to take home to incorporate the value at home, and Value-able Cards for free meals at Chick-fil-A.

“I believe in this program 100 percent, so I have agreed to pay half of the program cost and through a grant from Charleston County Safe and Drug Free Schools program the other half is taken care of,” Dickerson said.

“The program is so easy to implement and the effects are evident,” guidance counselor Tricia Swanger said. “Many students have implemented the values into helping others.”

Third-grader Callie Hartsell used September’s value of initiative to make a care package for soldiers in Iraq.

“I read in a magazine that the soldiers are running out of supplies,” she said. “I want to do my best to see that every soldier comes back healthy and safe.”

“I can see a big change in myself,” said Lacy Alderson, a fifth-grader. “At home I help my mom even when she doesn’t ask me to, and I use my manners more often.”

“I have been doing this since I was in third grade,” Thomas Jones said. “I try to use my manners and say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am,’ and I am still trying to use values from other months, too.”

Dickerson said that the children can carry these skills with them throughout their lives.

“They won’t remember a lot of what they learn in their classes, but even in its smallest form this program is laying a foundation for the future of our immediate world,” he said.

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