For more than a decade, Virginia 4-H has been working in Brazil to bring character education and training to educators, students, and families. The Character Counts! program has made an impact in more than 65 schools, improving student behavior, reducing violence, and increasing family involvement.  

“Character Counts! changed our whole classroom routine. There are fewer fights at recess, and we study harder and ask for help when we need it now,” said a 13-year-old student who participated in the program.

This month, Virginia 4-H launched the “Bills for Brazil” campaign to solicit donations through Virginia Tech’s JUMP crowdfunding platform. Their goal of $4,999 will help expand the program and reach more educators and students in Brazil.

Sponsors will be directly supporting training for teachers, principals, judges, and all community leaders who affect the lives of children in Brazil. A $20 donation provides 20 Character Counts! posters for one school, while a $50 donation gives a full scholarship for Character Counts! advanced training. A $120 donation pays for a substitute teacher so educators can participate in the two-day training.

Character Counts! is designed to address the character development challenges youth face today. The program emphasizes the importance of teaching ethics and good character in the classroom and the home. Children across Virginia, and now Brazil, have learned some of their earliest ethical behavior from the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

Virginia 4-H representative Glenda Snyder first went to Brazil in 2004 to build partnerships and begin the work of bringing Character Counts! to Brazil’s youth. By 2006, the pilot program became training held in Joinville, Santa Catarina. More than 250 school faculty and judges working with troubled youth attended, addressing violence prevention and fostering a stronger community to support children.

Each year, the program has grown, reaching 1,700 teachers, principals, judges, and community leaders in Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande Do Norte. Virginia 4-H has impacted more than 65 schools and 70,000 students who have attended.

The trainings have now expanded to include conflict management, learning styles, and classroom management. Teachers can participate in the initial two-day basic Character Counts! training or the more recent advanced training designed for teachers returning to the program. More than 350 educators have participated.

In 2018, Virginia 4-H also visited Joinville, the site of the earliest Character Counts! training in Brazil, to see their work in action in the schools. The teachers and the school administration reported decreased violence, improved classroom behavior, and an increase in parent involvement.

4-H is the youth development education program of Virginia Cooperative Extension. Through 4-H, young people are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities that emphasize 4-H's "learning by doing" philosophy of youth development. Administered through the state’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, 4-H is the first experience many young people have with higher education.

To support Character Counts! programming in Brazil, please visit the JUMP campaign:

-Written by Caroline Sutphin