Youths in the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) prekindergarten to second grade programs spent the morning of April 9 participating in Character Counts! activities at Fort McCoy.

Character Counts! is a nationwide initiative focused on teaching youths the basics of good character. The six pillars of Character Counts! are Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

The pillar the youths focused on April 9 was respect.

The group started the morning with a discussion of what respect means with School Age Services Lead Program Assistant Steph Preston.

Then they watched a Character Counts! video about respect featuring a group of puppets who become entangled in problems that require them to distinguish right from wrong. Complete with inspiring songs and humor, these videos provide a fun way to engage the youths in thinking and talking about the kind of people they want to be.

After the video, the youths discussed the Golden Rule and talked about treating others the way they wanted to be treated. To wrap up the morning, they made rainbows with a large gold coin with the Golden Rule on it in the pot of gold.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said "To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

The Character Counts! program teaches youths all the information and skills they need to go out into the world and reach for their dreams to make the world a better place for everyone. The program teaches youths about the values and ethics society finds important, not just the skills to help them get ahead in the world.

During the 2009 Fort McCoy Summer Camp, which will begin in June, the School Age Services kindergarten through second grade youth will invite the prekindergarten children from the Child Development Center to come to more Character Counts! days to learn about the other pillars of character.

Anyone in the Fort McCoy community interested in learning more about Character Counts! can find information online at

In the Fort McCoy community, they also can contact the Fort McCoy School Age Services program at 608 388-4373 for more information.