Exchange's Young Citizenship Award honors pre-high school students who daily demonstrate good citizenship both at school and at home. It does not necessarily seek to salute star scholastic or athletic performers. Instead, the program is designed to recognize and encourage youngsters who are honest, hard-working, helpful and fair. In practice, the Young Citizenship Award provides classroom teachers with an effective tool to further motivate promising students. It also provides Exchangites with an enjoyable opportunity to supply the encouragement that can be so vitally important in shaping the characters of youngsters at an impressionable time in their lives.
The purpose of the Young Citizenship Award is to find and reward those students who work hard at being good citizens at home, at school, and in the community. They don’t shirk when there’s a job to be done. They cooperate with teachers and parents. They’re not necessarily at the top of their class, star athletes, or musical or artistic virtuosos. Still, they’re students you would be proud to have as sons or daughters.
The Young Citizenship Award program seeks to prove to these kids that good citizenship counts — to show them that their conduct and attitude is not only noticed and appreciated, but that it is also rewarded. Hopefully this kind of recognition at such an important stage in their development will encourage them to maintain a high standard of conduct as they mature and grow into adulthood.
This program is exceptionally flexible — it can be easily customized to suit the needs of your particular school system. Just ask members of the Exchange Club of The Tonawandas, N.Y. They originated the program in only a couple of schools at first. Soon after, school administrators from the surrounding area recognized its value and asked to be included in the program. It’s now one of the most praised and publicized ongoing activities in that area.
Once the program is in place, the schools and the Exchange Club share the responsibility for its maintenance. Classroom teachers select the children who will receive the Young Citizenship Award; the local Exchange Club provides the awards and promotional support. In addition, the program provides every club member with an opportunity to participate by making award presentations at school assemblies. Members must also contact winners and their parents to arrange for publicity and award presentations.
You must thoroughly understand the program and then sell it to local school authorities. Remember, this program focuses only on elementary and/or junior high school students. Therefore, the way you structure your program depends on the structure of the school system in your area. That’s why it’s important to involve school officials early in the planning of the program.
The best place to start is with local public and parochial elementary and/or junior high school principals. Explain the program and its objectives. Provide the school personnel who might be involved information regarding the program and your club. Once school personnel understand the structure and value of the Young Citizenship Award program, they can help you adapt it to whatever organizational and policy requirements exist within the school system.
Since an additional purpose of the program is to provide youngsters with reachable goals worth striving for, it is important that both the club and the school system agree in advance to sustain the program over several school years. The Young Citizenship Award should not be a one-year effort; it should continue from year to year if it is to fulfill its real purpose.
The student must consistently demonstrate at home, in school, and in the community those characteristics which this program aims to encourage. These characteristics include:
Citizenship - The student must be regarded as dependable, and demonstrate respect for people, property, and the law.
Attitude - The student is courteous, helpful and caring in his or her relationships with other students and adults.
Academics - The student continually strives to the limits of his or her abilities, both in the classroom and in the home, to achieve those personal, academic goals which his or her teachers believe are within reach of the student. (This in no way implies that the candidate must be academically superior.)
Service - The student readily and unselfishly helps others at home, at school and in the community to a degree that is judged exceptional for a young person of the candidate’s age.
Leadership - The student demonstrates an ability to work with and motivate others, has sound values, good judgment, a sense of fairness, and has earned the respect of his or her peers.
Sportsmanship - The student demonstrates an earnest attempt to do his or her best during athletic competitions, shows a respect for the rules of that competition, and in terms of priorities, places the success of the team above a need for personal advancement. (This criteria does not imply that the student must be an outstanding athlete.)
Your National Headquarters offers a Young Citizenship Award certificate and a specially-jacketed dictionary for elementary school winners, and a certificate and a specially-jacketed thesaurus for junior high school winners. These awards are provided by the sponsoring Exchange Club. In addition, the achievement should be actively publicized within the school system by school authorities and throughout the community by the sponsoring Exchange Club.
The number of awards your club provides depends on the scope and size of your program. Remember, the Young Citizenship Award program is very flexible and adaptable.
Your club can present up to eight awards per year per participating school. So, depending on the number of participating schools and how you and your school officials design the program, the number of awards will vary.
Some teachers have used the award as an incentive to motivate deserving children. Thus, they sometimes nominate more than one student for the award. These are termed honorable mention awards and are identical to the regular Young Citizenship Award.
Although honorable mention winners do not receive a gift, they should still be recognized. Perhaps a special presentation can be made at a final assembly at the end of the school year.
To make the awards process simpler, junior high students can be presented awards at club meetings. Elementary school winners can be given their awards by Exchange Club members at school assemblies — generally at the end of the school year.
Just remember, presenting older children with their award at a regular club meeting not only enhances the importance of the award for the student, but it also enhances the significance of the program for fellow club members. Very often, an older child has a talent or interest which he or she can demonstrate to the club and which enhances the presentation.
When properly implemented, the Young Citizenship Award program provides all Exchange Club members with the opportunity to participate as much and as often as they wish. There are opportunities to speak at award presentations and at school assemblies. Members must also contact parents and teachers and interview winners before a presentation. In short, club members will discover the Young Citizenship Award program is a truly heartwarming and satisfying endeavor.
But the greatest personal benefit to Exchangites, as expressed by those who have taken part in the program, is to meet and talk with some wonderful young people — youngsters who represent what Americans like to think they are — decent, hard-working, reliable, fair-minded and honest.
Those characteristics are the strength of any society. That’s what the Young Citizenship Award is all about — to help ensure that those vital qualities are perpetuated for the benefit of us all.
For the Young Citizenship Award to be fully effective and appreciated, it must be continuously promoted to the media and the community. Publicity not only helps to achieve the program’s primary purpose — to publicly honor deserving youngsters — but it provides added visibility for your club. It also encourages school officials and teachers to support the program within the schools. For additional Public Relations ideas, see the PR Resource, available from your National Headquarters and on Exchange’s website at www.nationalexchangeclub.org.