March 22, 2004 — At a workshop on Saturday, 22 youngsters, ages 11 to 17, received a very important message: Character counts. In a two-hour interactive session held at the Department of Education's Kingshill Curriculum Center, presenters from V.I. Parents Uniting Schools and Home (VIPUSH) engaged the youth with a video presentation, thought-provoking lectures and engaging discussions — all designed to identify and emphasize the qualities of good character and instill these qualities into the children's daily life.
Clifford Cuffy and Elmo Rabsatt, who facilitated the session, say the event's goal is to enable youth to make better decisions, change their outlook in a positive way and help them develop a positive image.
Cuffy, a parent educator, offered his opinion on the obstacles facing the youth of today. "The biggest problem with the youth is that they lack character and conviction," he said. He mentioned that most of the young people he meets are very good kids, however, they "lack wisdom and so they make bad choices."
Cuffy continues, "They don't have the power within them to say 'no' to their friends, and they are carried away because they are timid. They need to stand up against things they know are wrong."
Community leaders and parents also influence the behavior of today's youth, said Cuffy. "We need to establish credibility in ourselves — people question the credibility of our leaders — we must demonstrate competence, caring and conviction."
Rabsatt notes that youth today are bombarded with mixed messages from the media and society. "Their foundation is very unstable," he said. "They need to learn how to show respect, understanding and caring for other people — then everything else will fall into place."
Saturdays' session is part of a series of informative talks hosted by the St. Croix Unity Coalition, which strives to heighten awareness, promote healthy lifestyles, and motivate parental involvement in the fight for safe, drug-free lives for the youth. The Coalition hosts monthly enrichment teen meetings as a precursor to the annual Teen Summit, a two-and-a-half-day retreat that teaches life skills and provides age-appropriate social activities and educational exhibits. The summit, geared to youth ages 12 to 15, will be held on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands in July.
During Saturday's session, the youth shared their interpretations of the six pillars of character — trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship — and were encouraged to give examples of each trait and demonstrate how they could integrate them into their daily lives.
Annette Jacobs, Unity Coalition program coordinator, and Joyce Brown, Unity Coalition program specialist, encouraged parents to involve their teens with the program. "This is the place for your children to learn how to deal with the world the way it is today," said Brown.
The Unity Coalition operates under the auspices of the Virgin Islands Victory Partnership and the Village Virgin Islands Partners in Recovery.
For more information on the Unity Coalition or to enroll your teen, call 719-9800.
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