Building Character for a Lifetime

1. We have a money problem.
There are 527 students this year at J.J. Harris Elementary School, a Title I school in Athens, Georgia. Yet we have zero dollars allotted specifically for one extremely important initiative. We are asking for your help to purchase materials to support a program that will allow our children to build the character, self-esteem, and confidence that will enable them to succeed for the remainder of their school career and beyond.

This year, J.J. Harris Elementary has implemented four Character Houses.

House of Laborare: Diligence, Innovation, Spirit
House of Auctor: Responsibility, Dignity, Integrity
House of Paratus: Preparation, Knowledge, Passion
House of Quantum: Respect, Truth, Family

Students and staff have been randomly sorted into “houses,” which are school-wide communities working together to embody the characteristics in our “Essential 10” list. Students will remain a member of the same house for their entire elementary school career.  

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 2. What will we do with the money ?
With our campaign goal of $5,000, we can provide a modest $9.50 per student. This amount can support our Tiger Trading Post, and by extension, our children, for the next several years.

With your donations, we will order house-specific “swag” for our Tiger Trading Post.  This is a school-wide shop where students "cash in" Tiger Tickets earned for following the school’s “Essential 10” list of expectations. These tickets convert to points that support their houses. Your donation will provide students with physical representations (lanyards, badges, pencils, etc.) of the characteristics each house embodies that we would not otherwise be able to provide.

J.J. Harris "Essential 10" List:
1. Have character
2. Use common courtesy
3. Show gratitude
4. Speak with confidence and respect
5. Always make eye contact
6. Have respect for your peers
7. Use manners
8. Be organized
9. Respect school expectations
10. Greet others and respond appropriately

3. Why is this important?
Elementary school is the time when students develop their attitudes about education and about themselves. With these houses, our students can begin to feel triumphant, as they earn points for their houses. Our students can begin to see the potential in themselves. Our students can shift their view of school as a place where they struggle and feel frustrated to a place where they can and will succeed. With your donation, our students can proudly exhibit their house crest and feel a part of a community of scholars, high-achievers, and people of strong character who seek to make the world a better place for us all.

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4. Why is this important to me?
I have the best job. Every morning, I get 15 hugs from tiny arms. I get to see 15 genuine, snaggle-toothed smiles, smiling for no other reason than that they are excited to see me, even at 7:30 in the morning.

I have the best job. I get to spend more hours with the six-year-olds in my classroom each day than many of their parents. I get to celebrate their successes and wipe their tears when they cry.  

I have the hardest job. Every year, I watch as increasingly high standards of achievement devour more and more time once allotted for social skill-building and character building. Every year, I see my students come into school already feeling like failures because they could not read at age four.

I have the hardest job. Every year, I watch as the past year’s first graders move on to even more rigorous content in the grades that follow. I watch as many of the once eager, snaggle-toothed smiles turn to frustrated grimaces. I watch as those same students lash out when they don’t know an answer. I watch these same students shift from using their tiny arms to hug to using them to fight, because they don’t know how else to cope with the daily frustrations of life, the constant demand to succeed, and the feeling that it is all hopeless.

But it is not hopeless. There is hope because our students have incredible potential. Our students have every bit as much ability to thrive and to achieve as anyone. Our students can succeed, but they need to relish in the sweet taste of success, so that they can begin to believe it is possible. They need to see that their own potential comes from inside of them and that they are a part of a community who strives, who cares, and who believes in them.

Enter character houses. This year, J.J. Harris has implemented four Character Houses. Students have been randomly sorted into “houses,” which are communities of students and staff who work together to embody the characteristics that we deemed essential in our “Essential 10” list.  With these houses, our students can begin to feel triumphant, as they earn points for their houses. With these houses, our students can begin to see the potential in themselves that we know is within each of them.

It  is vital that we capitalize on the momentum and enthusiasm of students, thus extending student buy-in to the house system for the remainder of their school career and beyond. Students must feel connected to their individual houses and have the opportunity to display their house crests proudly in order to eventually internalize the characteristics that each house represents. The items purchased will also serve as rewards and reminders of success for each individual student, as students will only be able to earn house “swag” through their adherence to the “Essential 10” school-wide expectations.

Your donation will go directly to purchasing items which incorporate the crest of each individual character house.  Currently, our school has extremely limited funds and cannot purchase such items. Any donor contributing in the amount of $50 or more will receive a handwritten note from a J.J. Harris student, articulating our sincere thanks for your generosity.

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Donations

 See top
  • Kathleen Mitchell 
    • $10 
    • 38 mos
  • Katherine Ostenson 
    • $50 
    • 38 mos
  • Jordan Whitaker  
    • $30 
    • 38 mos
  • Mallory and Chris Stanislawczyk 
    • $25 
    • 39 mos
  • Rob Reiss 
    • $50 
    • 39 mos
See all

Organizer

Annie Birdsong 
Organizer
Athens, GA
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