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Teaching kids character development

The New York City (NYC) Hall of Fame and Department of Parks and Recreation have teamed up to introduce a character development portion to a student after-school program at Roy Wilkins and Cunningham Park.
Albert Stern, President of the NYC Hall of Fame, originally came up with the idea of instituting the program and solicited the help of the Parks Department and Aviation High School guidance counselor Kerry Donohue, who teaches the character development program once a week at Roy Wilkins and Cunningham.
After the regular after-school activities, which include doing homework and playing either outside or inside the recreation center, the students at the program, who vary in age from 6-12, take the last hour of their afternoon to engage in a discussion with Donohue about issues affecting the children on a daily basis.
“I don’t think we give kids enough credit for what they feel or give them enough opportunity to discuss their feelings,” Donohue said.
During a typical session, Donohue said she will show a video clip about a real life situation, and then pause the video at a decision-making point to engage the children in a discussion about what they would do in that setting. One of the most popular video clips was when an elderly woman dropped $50 on the ground, and Donohue stopped the clip to ask the students what they would do in the situation.
Donohue said the students provided a variety of responses, some of which were unexpected, but nearly all of the students participated in the discussion, and she believes they can learn from listening to each other’s responses.
In addition to the video clips, Donohue said that the character-building hour gives the students an opportunity to talk about issues affecting them either at school, home or even with their friends.
“The kids talk about their own world, which is great,” she said. “We try to keep it light and how it relates to their whole life.”
The character development program began in mid-April once a week at the two locations, and is continuing until the end of the school year. Since the start, Donohue said she has seen the kids become more vocal and eager to participate in the discussions.
More than anything else, Donohue said giving the children an opportunity to talk about these topics, and hopefully learn a few things, is her goal.
“It’s good for them to talk about their doubts and fears,” she said. “I appreciate that I can help them talk about what’s going on in their lives.”

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