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Character Counts! puts focus on students, first responders

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Tim Fuller, executive director of Character Counts! of Chaves County, holds the proclamation declaring this week Character Counts! Week. Also pictured, from left, are Chaves County commissioners Robert Corn, Dara Dana, T. Calder Ezzell and Jeff Bilberry. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

This year’s Character Counts! Week in Chaves County recognizes students and first responders while also paying tribute to Alvin Jones, the retired judge and prominent community leader who gave much of his time and effort to the organization before his passing in May.

Students and first responders will be honored this week, commemorated nationally by all Character Counts! organizations, as people are reminded of the “six pillars” of character that the national effort seeks to promote in community members: responsibility, caring, trustworthiness, respect, fairness and citizenship.

“It is very important to instill (these qualities) in the youth, planting a foundation of character that will resonate for a lifetime,” said Amy McVay-Davis, president of the board of directors of Character Counts! of Chaves County. “With the passing of Judge Jones, the baton has been passed and it is up to us to continue the legacy.”

Jones had been a director of the group at one point and had remained a volunteer and advisor throughout his life.

McVay-Davis said that miniature bow ties will be handed out to some people this week, while bow ties also will decorate venues.

On Thursday, the Chaves County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Character Counts! Week starting today, but events began a bit early on Friday with a Spring River Zoo tour and talk for youth.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Roswell High School Commons, students from public and private schools throughout the county will be honored for the poetry, art and essays created to express the importance of the pillars of character in their lives.

The event also includes performances by Roswell High School vocal groups and the presentation of the colors by the New Mexico National Guard Youth Challenge Academy.

“Judge Jones was very passionate about Youth Challenge and how their entire organization implemented the pillars of character into not only a philosophy but a way of life,” said McVay-Davis. “It meant a lot to him to have their presence honoring the United States of America with their color guard presentation and having the entire school there for the large celebration on Tuesdays, as we do every year.”

On Wednesday, at 6 p.m. at the Chaves County Administrative Center, the organization will honor first responders from the county during its annual “Honor the Badge” ceremony.

The week also dovetails into Red Ribbon Week, a national drug abuse and violence prevention effort in public schools, and Tim Fuller, executive director of the local Character Counts!, said students and faculty from various schools will be involved in the effort to instill healthy behaviors in students, with Sunset Elementary School planning a march to the Roswell Air Center.

The local Character Counts! group works with schools, community organizations, youth groups and sports groups throughout the year on character-building programs, presentations and activities. It also honors athletes, coaches and teachers during the year.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.