When I heard about the Character Development Program I was immediately intrigued. I have volunteered with middle school and high school students for the past 6 years and my passion lies in the heart of kids. At the same time, I felt a sense of curiosity, wondering how in the world could the Medal of Honor relate to students.
I was sitting in on a conference call with two trainers to prepare for the CDP trainings when I realized that we would be flying them in from a different state. I had known that the CDP has been implemented elsewhere but to know that there are people who are willing to travel to Minnesota just to train the educators in our state made my picture of the CDP expand beyond MOHTC walls. Within a week they landed in Minnesota and I was sitting at dinner with them, along with Cathy Metcalf (VP of Education and daughter of a Medal of Honor Recipient) and Brian Thacker (a MOH recipient). Conversation about the CDP swirled around the table as I tried to listen to every single word they were saying. Passion and experience flooded the table and just like that I saw the hearts of those involved.
A view from the windows showed a dark room, the lights were off. As the Chief of Staff guided me into the room I had no idea what to expect. I walked in and saw a video of Clarence Sasser playing. He was telling his story and every face in the room was lit from the glow of the screens, they were intently listening in on his story. Shortly after the video ended the lights flipped on and I saw the vast variety of educators in their seats. I was secretly thrilled to see that many people attending our training session.
The educators were then instructed to talk amongst their tables about a character trait they saw in Clarence and reflect it on a diagram. Listening in on their conversations from my table I was excited to hear a room full of strangers talk about a subject I was so passionate about. The trainers directed our attention to the screen to see the vast responses from students who participated in this activity. From Advanced Placement students thinking critically about the character traits to Special Education students explaining Integrity as “cream puff”, I was getting more and more excited about the state of Minnesota and the youth benefitting from this program.
The day was filled with a whirlwind of videos, examples, collaboration and training. Once we got to the end of the day the floor was open for any questions the attendees had. I was blown away by the challenging questions that the audience asked. “What about the Chinese students in the classroom and their Nation’s history with the Vietnam war?” and, “What about females, how would they connect to these lesson plans?” and the one that struck me as the most interesting, “What would you say to the kids that have family in the war? How do you expect them to perceive these lessons differently?” Each question was very valid and ones that I had not thought of before.
Listening to Brain Thacker answer each one of them with humbleness and confidence I found myself thinking more deeply about the Character Development Program and all that it truly has to offer the youth of our state. Each student that is taught from any of the lesson plans will be impacted and in a different way that the student sitting next to them. I left the training that day wanting more. Hoping for an opportunity to see all of this come together in classrooms right here in Minnesota and get the opportunity to hear students think critically and organically respond to the lesson plans.
Our first set of trainings had 59 schools and 7 youth programs, an incredible turn out. I am excited for our next trainings (September 20-21) and to see our education initiative reach the borders of Minnesota by creating lasting value in our state. If you’d like any more information about the CDP, go to our website under the CDP tab!