Making great strides within the Canastota School District are character education and leadership. Since Otis Jennings has stepped into the district as educational consultant the atmosphere has changed, just ask the students and staff members.
Jennings is a positive motivational speaker who believes in accepting all people. He's so well liked in the district that the 2008 graduating class asked him to be its speaker.
During an assembly held on Dec. 2 in the auditorium, Jennings talked about the serious effort the district has made since last June when it began its character education initiative. That initiative spawned a leadership initiative where dozens of students and staff members attended leadership training.
"It's all about how we can make Canastota all that it's capable of becoming," Jennings said. "It's about how we can achieve academic success." Jennings affectionately calls these initiatives "love fest 2008" and tells the students he can feel the love they have for each other, the school and becoming successful.
High school senior Brianne Quaglia said a school-wide survey took place before attending the training conference, which was facilitated by Jennings. Every grade participated. Students and staff were asked to come up with an active definition of leadership. Quaglia said when a member of Canastota can learn about community, it inspires others.
"Education and leadership are key," Quaglia said.
Superintendent of Schools Fred Bragan said he was pleased and proud of the things happening amongst the students.
"I see the student body taking control to make a change," Bragan said. "You are the change. You are the future."
Jennings also facilitated the Camfel Production of "Trust Me!?" Presented using a multi-media blending of "popular music, feature-film clips, human interest stories and insightful narratives," Trust Me!? addressed character building strategies. It focused on bullying, drugs and alcohol, honesty, trusting others and yourself. It asked students to consider how they are living their lives.