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Students from around The T&D Region will gather at Claflin University Friday for Read Across America Day. The day is also a celebration of the continuing Orangeburg County Community of Character campaign.

Featured readers will offer words from Dr. Seuss books that incorporate the character campaign’s trait for March, perseverance.

The character campaign continues to be an important component of Orangeburg County’s efforts to make our community a better place to live and work.

Community of Character itself is a story of perseverance.

In May 2000, Orangeburg County business and civic organizations embarked on an endeavor to strengthen citizens, families and the community through the promotion of character excellence.

A year later in May 2001, leaders of the effort had nothing but high praise for the campaign known as the "Communities of Character."

The initiative began when the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, the Orangeburg County Development Commission and The Times and Democrat to develop a countywide "community of character" in which specific character traits would be fostered.

Before officially launching the campaign, Orangeburg leaders examined the City of Aiken, which had also promoted a Communities of Character campaign. The Aiken mayor told leaders the city reaped benefits from the character-based public education in its businesses and schools, including a reduction in worker compensation claims and truancy rates.

The idea was seized quickly here. Its effect more than a decade-and-half later remains not entirely clear, but there are no negatives.

As part of the initiative, the campaign has focused on one particular character trait during each month. Through nominations, an Orangeburg County citizen who "exemplifies or is caught in the act" of exhibiting each month's trait is chosen to represent that particular trait.

When chosen, citizens are featured in The Times and Democrat.

Community of Character has drawn attention to Orangeburg County, where two statewide conferences have been held to bring people from other communities up to speed on what it takes to bring the effort alive in their locales. And statewide focus has helped, from both former Govs. Jim Hodges and Mark Sanford.

In 2002, Hodges designated March 21 "State of Character" Day. The governor cited the Community of Character effort as a whole and Orangeburg County's in particular as another way to "cheer on" the effort to implement character education initiatives into school curriculums.

"I do believe that we downplay the importance of character initiatives in our schools, and this character concept shows how important this is to us," Hodges said. "You can have a student in school with the best math and language skills, but if they are not people of character they won't be successful in life.”

Today at Claflin, building character and promoting reading skills will combine. Young people are likely to hear words such as determination, bravery, decisiveness, resolve, will, purpose, resoluteness, persistence, earnestness. All are related to perseverance, which when applied to their educations and lives can be defined in simpler terms as, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”


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