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Knights in shining armor return to Victoria to teach character building

Sept. 21, 2011 at 4:21 a.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2011 at 4:24 a.m.

William McCoy battles Cass Garcia in front of hundreds of elementary school students for an EarlyAct FirstKnight event at the Community Center on Wednesday. The program teaches chivalry to students.

An uproarious crowd of medieval jousting spectators howled and stomped as two horses charged toward two elementary school teachers.

The F.W. Gross and DeLeon elementary students' clamor quieted, though, when the teachers safely returned to the stands and the knight in front of them spoke.

"We want to help empower you to be world-changers," Sir Randall Parr told the two elementary campuses.

Their makeshift medieval world in the Community Center arena was the kick-off event for the EarlyAct FirstKnight program.

Knights clad in armor and shields rushed toward each other on horses dressed for battle, their lances gliding through rings and their swords chopping heads of cabbage in half.

After three years in Victoria schools, four elementary campuses have implemented EAFK, which is sponsored by the local Rotary Clubs. Aloe and Torres elementary schools saw the EAFK jousting show earlier in the day.

The program teaches character building and moral behavior by introducing throughout the year concepts like responsibility, honesty, respect and discipline. And, if a student exemplifies one of those traits, he or she has the chance to be knighted, honored and cheered in front of their peers.

"Their behavior has been great because they're all trying to get rewarded," said Lori Zamor, president of the Northside Rotary Club. "They see the kids striving to do better."

Teachers spend at least 10 minutes a day introducing the character-building concepts to students, but principals at F.W. Gross and DeLeon elementary schools said the program doesn't stop there.

"There's a big change in the culture of our school. The servitude attitude is big now," said Selina Reyna, DeLeon Elementary principal.

Students are taking their comprehension of certain traits and applying it to their studies, too, by analyzing more deeply the actions of the Three Little Pigs, for example.

"We see a greater awareness from the children of what these traits look like from day-to-day," Tammy Sestak, F.W. Gross principal said.

Kids also daily recite the Rotarian Four-Way Test for their actions, which begins by asking, "Is it the truth?"

That's changed the disciplinary climate of the schools, principals said.

"It takes all the fun out of my job because they just spill their guts," Reyna joked.

Nine-year-old Angel Gonzalez said he learned what tolerance meant thanks to EAFK last year.

"I didn't know that word. Being nice to people, being respectful," he said.

His F.W. Gross classmate, Aliyah National, 10, learned a much more all-encompassing lesson.

"I learned I should always be good," she said.

"Be good," the knights, reminded the kids as they packed their buses after the jousting.

The performers took a break in the air conditioning, still in their medieval gear, seeming satisfied with the jump start to another year.

Parr, who founded EAFK, said he's looking forward to continuing to see transformations in the Victoria schools.

"If we can change their character paradigms during this time ... we feel we can change the types of adults they're going to be," he said.



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