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NMSU Valencia County Extension teaches character education class at Peralta Elementary

PERALTA, N.M. ? As the school year ends, a group Peralta Elementary School sixth-grade students are better-prepared to face the peer pressures of attending middle school next year.

Group of students holding certificates
Members of Suzanne McCarty?s Peralta Elementary School sixth grade class display the certificates they earned by completing a ?Cowboy Ethics? curriculum taught by New Mexico State University?s Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service agent Newt McCarty. Pictured are, front row left to right, Anahi Provencio, Ruben Munoz, Hannah Stockton, Eloisa Herrera and Victoria Romero. Middle row from left, Manuel Prieto, Gabe Mayse, T.J. Farwell, Sarah Cooper, Osbaldo Solis, Timothy Houck and Jericho Aragon. Back row from left, McCarty, Isabella Gamboa, Kathlenna Duerksen, Aryn Simmons, Jorge Romero, Neal Garcia, Brandon Jaramillo and J Fritts. (NMSU photo by Newt McCarty)

Suzanne McCarty?s class learned 10 principles to live by during a 13-week, half-hour character education class presented by New Mexico State University?s Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service agent Newt McCarty.

The students learned the ?Ten Principles to Live By? that were established in James P. Owen?s book, ?Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.? Owen reminds his readers of a time and place when a handshake was as good as a contract ? where people drew a line and kept their promise.

?I think everyone has the internal compass of knowing right from wrong,? McCarty said. ?But I think they can use the tools we taught to help pull out the sense of right and wrong and utilize it.?

McCarty?s sister-in-law, Suzanne McCarty, invited him to teach the principles to her class because, ?sixth graders are the leaders of their school, and, as such, are role models. Plus, they are excited and nervous about going on to middle school.?

?In the future, I know I can use them, because they are life rules,? said student Aryn Simmons. ?You should use them knowing that each principle is what you should do.?

The principles are:
? Live each day with courage.
? Take pride in your work.
? Always finish what you start.
? Do what has to be done.
? Be tough, but fair.
? When you make a promise, keep it.
? Ride for the brand.
? Talk less and say more.
? Remember that some things aren?t for sale.
? Know where to draw the line.

?The kids really got it,? said their teacher. ?They have used the principles in our classroom, on the playground and at home. I am thinking about having Newt teach this unit at the beginning of next year, so those students will have the tools to be leaders of their school.?

During each weekly lesson, McCarty reviewed the previous week?s principle, had the students participate in an activity that demonstrated the new principle and then held a discussion about the new principle.

?It was fun seeing the kids grasp these principles,? he said. ?I think we have given them something they will use when facing peer pressure during middle school and high school. Living by these principles will help them throughout their lives.?

McCarty was inspired to teach the principles after seeing a presentation during a 4-H state conference.

?I knew our youth could use this philosophy,? he said. ?When I read the ?Cowboy Ethics? books, I knew I wanted to share the Code of the West with others.?

The Colorado 4-H Foundation is promoting these principles throughout the state by offering grants for 4-H agents and leaders to participate in training offered by the Wyoming Youth Initiative. McCarty attended one of these trainings in Montrose, Colorado.

?The Wyoming Youth Initiative has developed a curriculum from Owen?s ?Cowboy Ethics.? It is being taught in at all of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Wyoming,? McCarty said. ?I brought the curriculum back to Valencia County, not really knowing how I was going to introduce the program. Then I was talked to my sister-in-law, Suzanne, about the curriculum and she thought it would be good for her class.?

?As we went through the principles, they began applying them to their class work,? Suzanne McCarty said of her students. ?After learning about finishing the task and taking pride in your work, it seems like they started to say, ?Oh, right. This isn?t my best work. I know I can do better. I do have courage and I will finish what I start. They really began seeing how the principles apply to their everyday life.?