CHARACTER COUNTS

Kids teaching character through actions

All the education degrees, money in the bank or professional attributes just can’t add up to the importance of a person’s integrity. The character of a person shows his or her true colors.

Teaching good character is a responsibility of parents, schools and the community. The concept is simple. There are six characteristics that promote ethical values:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Fairness
  • Caring
  • Citizenship.

In a world that has seen such negativity of late, I say we dig a little deeper to inspire a “culture of kindness” to help our children feel safer and less scared. And let’s be honest – we all need that. How can these simple pillars make that happen? By being the example. By stepping up to do right. By not accepting the unacceptable behavior because it’s not “your problem.” It is your problem and my problem, because this is our community.

The Pinal County Juvenile Court Community Advisory Board (CAB) hosted its Annual Character Counts Essay Contest Awards Ceremony recently at the Pinal County Superior Courthouse. This contest, now in its 12th year, is fully funded by donations through this special volunteer board.

Students, family members, school personnel and court staff were in attendance during the ceremony with the Honorable Daniel Washburn as the guest speaker. Over 3,400 students participated in the countywide contest. Since the essay contest started, over 28,000 submissions have been accepted from students in Pinal County (grades K-12).

Winners were chosen based on their essays about one of the six pillars of character. Congratulations to the top winners in each category. Pinal County has much to be proud of when we have so many students who “get it.” They are creating a “culture of kindness” by setting their own examples – something we, as adults, can learn from.

PHOTO: Winners with Judge Daniel Washburn, Juvenile Court Director Denise Smith and Community Advisory Board Chair Debbie Martinez and members Carson McWilliams, Roy Edwards and Linda Bakker.


Division 1 (K-2)

  • 1st Place: Giana Piccirillo – Magma Ranch K-8/Florence
  • 2nd Place: Ashlyn Pilkington – Red Rock Elementary/Red Rock
  • 3rd Place: Jacqueline Chacon – Magma Ranch K-8/Florence
  • Honorable Mention: Kaiden Hurley – Ranch Elementary/San Tan Valley

Division 2 (3-5)

  • 1st Place: Viviana Ramos Yanes – Mesquite Elementary/Casa Grande
  • 2nd Place: Katelin Kazmierczak – Circle Cross Ranch K-8/Florence
  • 3rd Place: Eden Smith – Florence K – 8 School/Florence
  • Honorable Mention: Siennah Rios – Magma Ranch K-8/Florence

Division 3 (6-8)

  • 1st Place: Elizabeth Cook – Cactus Middle School/Casa Grande
  • 2nd Place: Audrey Solomon – St. Anthony of Padua Catholic/Casa Grande
  • 3rd Place: Hannah Parker – Walker Butte Leadership School/San Tan Valley
  • Honorable Mention: Kylie Kastl – St. Anthony of Padua Catholic/Casa Grande

Division 4 (9-12)

  • 1st Place: Caitlyn DeArman – Florence High School/Florence
  • 2rd Place: Dalton Baker – Florence High School/Florence
  • 3rd Place: Emma O’Shea – Florence High School/Florence
  • Honorable Mention: Fernando Ramirez – Maricopa High School/Maricopa

1st Place Winner – Division I (Grades K-2)

Giana Piccirillo

Magma Ranch K-8 – Florence

What Responsibility Means To Me

Responsibility is trying my best to get things right. I clean my room before I play my games. When my mom gets sick and in the hospital, I do all of her chores. I respond to my parents when they ask me something. I rely on people that I trust, like my friends and family. I return things on time and try not to lose them. I help take care of my little brother and help cook food. I help people get up when they trip and fall. If my parents say “no,” then I don’t do it. I do not keep begging to get my way. I never use bad language. People can trust me with anything. I feed my cat and dog when my parents ask me to. I let my brother play on my computer. I treat other people the same way I would like to be treated. I brush my teeth in the morning and at my bedtime. I turn in my homework on time I eat my food before I dive into the cookie jar. I wash my hand after I go to the restroom. Responsibility is important to me because without it I wouldn’t have any friends. RESPONSIBILITY IS AWESOME!!!


1st Place Winner – Division 2 (Grades 3-5)

Viviana Ramos Yanes

Mesquite Elementary School – Casa Grande

What Responsibility Means To Me

Responsibility means to do what you are told to do. An example of “responsibility” is when an adult or teacher at school gives you something to take care of. Another example is like if you were a babysitter you will have to take “responsibility” of the baby. Another idea of “responsibility” is when you are at school and your teacher gives you some supplies you need to take care of them because you might need them later.  It’s your “responsibility” to take care of the supplies because they might be helpful.  Responsibility also means to use “self–control” and “keep on trying” hard in everything. Responsibility also means to “think before you act and consider the consequence” because if you don’t think before you act and consider the consequence you might get in bad things—like if you lie to an adult they might get mad at you that’s why we don’t lie to adults.


1st Place Winner – Division 3 (Grades 6-8)

Elizabeth Cook

Cactus Middle School – Casa Grande

What Citizenship Means To Me

Citizenship is an important character trait. To me, citizenship means being a good neighbor and helping make the community better. It is important to be a good citizen, and you can show citizenship by doing these things.  One time, my brother’s Boy Scout troop went out and picked up litter in a little desert area near a road. Anyone was allowed to help, so my mom and I went. We picked up a lot of trash! After it was over, we took the trash–filled bags to the dump. Picking up all of the litter was tiring, but we were helping our community by protecting the environment.  Everyone that participated was showing citizenship when they were picking up the litter. Doing this was helping make the community better and protecting the environment, which is part of what citizenship means to me. To help the community, one thing you can do is help out with community projects, even if you are just donating money to help carry out the project. You can also protect the environment by picking up after yourself and even throwing away others’ litter. Another example of what citizenship means to me is being a good neighbor.  Offer to help the people in your community if they look like they need help. Also, don’t disrespect others! You aren’t better than them, and you’re not the boss. You can’t act however you want.  So be a good neighbor!  In conclusion, to me, citizenship beings being a good neighbor and helping make the community better.


1st Place Winner – Division 4 (Grades 9-12)

Caitlyn DeArman

Florence High School – Florence

What Responsibility Means To Me

Responsibility means everything to me. It means prioritizing and spending your time wisely. It means to take charge in what you need and what you want to accomplish in life. Responsibility means accountability and it can correlate with all other pillars of character. Every day, I take the time to organize my schedule my tasks in order of importance, so that I can achieve as much as possible. Setting goals is another aspect I contribute with responsibility. I have set long term and short term goals; long term being my ambition to graduate high school and go to college, short term being my objective to complete homework and class work. Being accountable is essential for being responsible. Admitting your shortcomings and taking humble pride in your triumph means responsibility. When I am in the wrong, I will admit it. When I have done something well, I will be proud of it.  Responsibility ties in with all aspects of character; being fair, caring, trustworthy, and taking part in citizenship, whenever possible. It means taking control for your future and being accountable for your own actions. Responsibility is essential for living a productive life. Responsibility is everything.