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Character Counts project brings Volunteer Opportunities

When the country shut down and schools turned virtual this past March, celebrities such as Kristin Bell and Jimmy Fallon read children’s books online for the young kids stuck inside.

This month, Drake University students have the same opportunity through the Character Counts! book project.

Students can take a break from quarantine madness to be creative and record themselves reading a children’s book to help kids around the world develop good character.

“It’s as simple as setting up your phone and capturing the really great stuff that you make,” said Kelly Bruhn, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “You are the talent.”

The SJMC has books available for students to check out, and encourages them to have fun with it.

“[Kids] get into the stories when you’re really animated, when you just embrace the fun that it is to read a children’s book, and particularly a book with a really good message,” Bruhn said.

The SJMC is partnering with Character Counts! for the book project.

“Character Counts! is an initiative focused around teaching the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship,” said Hilary Ortmann, associate director of events for the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center. “[The founder] really had a vision that teaching good character transitioned into making the world into a better place.”

In July 2019, Drake became the home of Character Counts!, and its students are at the center of the global movement that is more relevant than ever in the age of COVID.

“A parent is teaching a kid at home during the current climate right now, they’re 100 percent virtual,” Ortmann said. “By Drake students taking the time and energy to create these videos, we’re going to be able to push them out across the globe for parents and educators to use as they need.”

The process itself is easy and lets students be as creative as they want.

Character Counts! is a unique opportunity for SJMC students to supplement their resumes.

“I’m hoping a project like this can help some of the Digital Media students add something new and different to their portfolio that expresses a little more of their creativity and personality,” Ortmann said.

The project upholds SJMC values, helping students empathize with others.

The videos will be posted on charactercounts.org where parents and educators can access them with a login as a resource for their children.

Students interested in contributing to the Character Counts! book project can email denise.ganpat@drake.edu to check out a book. The top three videos will win SJMC swag. The deadline for submission is Oct. 9.

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