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Character-education tools purchased for schools

Character-education tools purchased for schools

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Through a challenge grant provided and matched by Alex Lee Inc., K-64 has helped to purchase character-education tools that will benefit three local school districts, its teachers and students.

The funds raised by K-64 from Nov. 2019 until the summer of 2020, and matched by Alex Lee, allowed the purchase of important social-emotional learning tools that will benefit Catawba County Schools, Hickory Public Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools.

“Character education is a critical component for student success,” said Kimberly George, chair of the K-64 Character Development Committee and Senior Vice President of Communications and Corporate Citizenship for Alex Lee. “I am excited that K-64 is able to support these important programs in our schools by providing the curriculum and resources for teachers and administrators.”

Catawba County Schools and Hickory Public Schools both use Second Step Curriculum, which according to its website, is a program rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL) that helps transform schools into supportive, successful learning environments.

“We are grateful for our partnership with K-64 and this roll-out happened at the perfect time to meet our needs for social-emotional learning,” said Matt Stover, superintendent for Catawba County Schools. “Growing up during this time is extremely difficult and now you throw in a pandemic, our students need this program and we are grateful.”

Maria Ballard, Director of Student Services for Catawba County Schools, says K-64’s purchase of the curriculum helps to fill an important need for her school system.

“We are so very thankful for our partnership with K-64,” Ballard said. “We are excited to implement this engaging program in our schools to teach our students social-emotional skills and promote healthy social-emotional development. The program teaches skills that will benefit our students now and throughout their lives.”

Catawba County Schools and Hickory Public Schools now have one character education kit per teacher in grades K- 5 — kits that had been previously shared by teachers.

These kits can be used on average around three to five years, and if properly maintained, around seven to 10 years. For students in grades six through eight, K-64 purchased subscriptions for CCS and HPS students to access Second Step's online curriculum.

"Thanks to the generosity of K-64, all of the HPS elementary schools now have a complete 'secondSTEP' curriculum kit for every classroom,” said Hickory Public Schools Superintendent Robbie Adell. "Our teachers, as well as our students, love these kits and use them frequently. When a curriculum program, like 'secondSTEP', receives outstanding feedback from teachers, students, and families, we know that we've achieved a win-win for all.”

Angela Simmons, Hickory Public Schools’ director of student services, believes these kits will be pivotal in helping to provide a thorough education for students in the HPS system.

“Second step is such an important component to our whole social emotional learning,” Simmons said. “It completes their education and makes a whole package. With these additional kits, we are able to have it in all of our schools in every classroom kindergarten through eighth grade.”

Newton-Conover City Schools, which uses Sanford Harmony instead of Second Step, will utilize the support from K-64 to pay for the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) Screener.

“We hope that (the DESSA Screener) will provide valuable data about each student that could help the school better meet their emotional needs,” said NCCS Superintendent Aron Gabriel. “Under normal circumstances, the challenges of dealing with childhood and adolescence are quite imposing. Those challenges are exacerbated during a pandemic. This personalized info could be the difference maker in our ability as a school system to truly meet our students at their emotional point of need.”

The DESSA Screener covers eight different social and emotional competencies, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, goal-directed behavior, personal responsibility, decision making and optimistic thinking.

Jill Hager, behavior specialist for Newton-Conover City Schools, echoes the sentiments of Gabriel.

“The DESSA assessment has transformed the way we look at our students and their social emotional needs,” Hager said. “It has allowed us to have a universal screener that will help us pinpoint exactly where to individualize our instruction for each child.”

For more information about the Second Step program, visit and for more information on the DESSA Screener, visit

To learn more about the K-64 initiative through Catawba Valley Community College, visit

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