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Signs of character In unusual pairing, highway superintendent helps Emmet Belknap raise expectations

It's easy to believe Emmet Belknap Middle School pupils are people of high character.

There are signs of that everywhere, at least in every school hallway.

This week, school officials started attaching actual street signs in all 10 of the school's hallways, each of which bears the name of some important character trait each middle schooler is trying to develop.

There is Perseverance Parkway, Responsibility Road, Honesty Lane, Respect Street, Humility Highway and Kindness Boulevard.

And Friendship Circle, Tolerance Terrace, Positive Attitude Avenue and Involvement Street.

"It's a kind of subliminal thing that goes along with our character education program," said Assistant Principal Bernadette Smith. "We are trying to have our students develop positive character traits that will help them along in life, make them better people and make our school a nicer place to be a part of."

The idea came out of the school's Character Education Committee last October to remind pupils of "our character education philosophy here as they walk the halls," Smith said.

Cherie Anterline, a teacher's aide, spearheaded the sign-making effort.

"It turned out to be as simple as making a call to Mike Hoffman, the city's superintendent of highways and parks," Anterline said. "I told him what we wanted to do, and he contacted Mayor [Michael] Tucker and asked him if we could recycle some of the city's old street signs that were earmarked for the scrap heap.

"The city not only said yes, but they volunteered to refurbish them and make up new signs for us," Anterline said.

The city did so under the direction of Danny Sheehan, who works for Hoffman.

Art teacher Andrea Holden, who has been placed in charge of the project, said the signs will be accompanied by murals Belknap pupils are creating. The murals will reflect the school's population and the character traits emphasized by each sign.

She said the pupils in the school's art club, "The Art Blasters," are designing the murals and will be painting them on hallway walls this semester.

The mural project is headed by club members Alexandria R. Lawton, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, and Connor J. Dry, 13, a seventh-grader.

"The murals will show little cartoon characters that represent the different kinds of students we have in school doing different things together. Like we'll have a jock, a skater, a Goth, a nerd, a girly-girl and other kids -- all the stereotypes we have at school right now. We have all those categories of kids who are into all different kinds of things that go to school together, work together and help each other," Alexandria said.

"We'll try to have them create a kind of three-dimensional effect with the signs," she said.

In addition to reminding pupils about building character, she said, the project should help incoming sixth-graders find their way around the school in the fall.

Connor said the pupils are drawing youngsters with different personalities and putting them together "to show that we have one school and work together, without our differences like race or background getting in the way. It's kind of like the big melting pot we're part of."

The murals will show how pupils and their actions affect others, Connor said.

Holden said the project will remind everybody of schoolwide goals as they pass through the halls.

"We want them to realize that life's all about things like perseverance, honesty, respect, responsibility and friendship," she said. "Hopefully, when you see these signs every day, it sinks in."


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