During the week of July 8, the Botetourt County Character Counts! Leadership Council will host the Fifth Annual Youth with Character Academy at Fincastle Baptist Church. The first academy was held in 2015 and since that time nearly 100 rising sixth graders have been invited to attend as representatives of the seven county elementary schools. The Character Counts Academy was established to focus on building strong youth leaders within Botetourt County.

Throughout the week, students will participate in hands-on activities that focus on the six pillars of character: Responsibility, Respect, Caring, Trustworthiness, Fairness, and Citizenship. These activities will help to prepare them to demonstrate and share leadership characteristics with fellow students at Central Academy and Read Mountain Middle Schools in the coming school year.

In order to strengthen personal character traits and learn how to use leadership skills to influence others, students will listen to community guest speakers, participate in experiential learning activities and spend time volunteering in the community.

Students that participated in the very first academy are now finishing up their freshman year of high school. Mikel Johnson, Lord Botetourt High School, shared that the academy helped her meet a new set of friends and display good character and make better decisions. Olivia Barkett, Lord Botetourt High School, said it helped her become a leader. Isabella Clark, James River High School, stated she continues to model good character. Both students said that the academy helped make the transition into middle school easier. Harmony Musser, Lord Botetourt High School, shared that she learned to help others more and show good character qualities.

When asked how the academy helped them, last year’s participants shared that they made new friends, they learned about being a leader, showing kindness and standing up for others that need help. Several stated that they will be more caring, kind, respectful to others and work to make better choices. Several parents of last year’s attendees shared that the academy helped their child with the transition to middle school by meeting new friends and helped build their confidence.

This upcoming academy will feature some established activities and trips that former students have thoroughly enjoyed. Field trips to the Botetourt County Courthouse and the Brian Center are being planned, so that participants may demonstrate their good character and put the pillar qualities into action.

The Youth with Character Academy is organized and sponsored by the Botetourt County Character Counts! Council and supported through donations from individuals and businesses throughout the county. Those interested in helping make this annual event possible through a pillar sponsor for $250 or making a donation or other support may contact Sheila at slythgoe@brbh.org or call the Botetourt County Cooperative Extension Office at