Commitment to First PLACE! is a wonderful thing for Branson and its children

As a columnist, a goal is to start the year with a column that has the potential for the most impact on our community during 2011. In an Ole Seagull’s opinion first place in that category would have to go to “First PLACE!” and encouraging our community to continue working together to make positive character traits part of what our children and grandchildren experience every day, at home, in school, and in the community. First PLACE! is a community commitment by our schools, area businesses, individuals parents, relatives, the College of the Ozarks and others to “foster a community where character is highly valued and intentionally taught.”

“Oh come on Seagull, you have to be kidding. With all that’s going on down at city hall and out at the county, the Branson Airport debacle and law suits on Branson Landing, etc. why is First Place! your lead column of 2011?” Quite simply, because, to most people, the future of their children and grand children means much more to them than any of those things and “character,” the “combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another,” will be an important part of that future both for Branson and its children. It’s not a matter of whether or not a child or a community like Branson is going to have character, they are; it’s just a matter of what type of character they are going to have good, bad, or indifferent.

The program is simple. Each month of the year a particular character trait is taught and emphasized in the schools. That teaching is then reinforced within the community and at home through First PLACE Partners, businesses and individuals, who have committed to “demonstrating one visible action each month that ties into the trait of the month.” The First PLACE! character traits are:

Commitment – being true to your word (January)
Honesty – being truthful in what you say and do (February)
Cooperation – working together toward a common goal (March)
Perseverance – demonstrating persistent determination (April)
Self-discipline – training and control of yourself (May)
Patience – waiting calmly (June)
Patriotism – showing love for one’s country (July)
Courage – facing difficulty with bravery (August)
Respect – treating others with courtesy and honor (September)
Responsibility – taking ownership of what you say and do (October)
Citizenship – being loyal to your country (November)
Compassion/Kindness – caring for others (December)

Ironically, the Trait of the Month for January is “Commitment,” a necessary element if First PLACE! is to be successful. The good news is that the schools and the areas’ educational professionals are committed to and doing their part. The bad news is that the question “Are you doing yours?” has to be asked. What does it say to our children and grandchildren about our commitment to the program and what it represents, as individuals and as a community, if the character traits taught while our children are in school are not reinforced within the community and in their homes? As you go about your business this week interfacing with your children and grandchildren and the businesses and organizations within our community ask yourself this question, “Is there enough evidence to convict either Branson or myself of being committed to “fostering a community where character is highly valued and intentionally taught?”

The Ole Seagull would confess, to his shame, that the answer would be, “No.” Starting with this column he makes the commitment to change that.

First PLACE! is spearheaded by The Keeter Center for Character Education at the College of the Ozarks. It costs nothing for a business or individual to become a Partner except for the commitment “to visibly demonstrate the trait of the month at least one time during the month.” That could be as simple as displaying the free 12 x 9 inch colored Trait of the Month sign; including it in a sermon, news letter or training session or simply asking a child “What is the Trait of the Month” or a question about it? For additional information please call Sue Head, Executive Director of The Keeter Center for Character Education at 417-690-2241 or go to the First PLACE! website,

The Ole Seagulls favorite verse of scripture is, “Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence, or worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” As a community and as individuals, the First PLACE! program provides the opportunity to not only “dwell on these things” but make them a vital part of the lives of our children and grandchildren, ourselves, and the very community that we call home and market to the world. That’s why the Ole Seagull picked the First PLACE! program, and the need for the community’s continuing commitment to it for his lead column of 2011. What do you think?

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