Sir Cass Garcia of the Knights of the Guild tells a story to a cafeteria packed of students during an Early Act First Knight ceremony Monday at Timber Ridge Elementary in Killeen.

By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald

Honoring students for showing character traits worthy of knighthood, the Early Act First Knight program recognized another group of high-achieving kindergarten through fifth-graders.

Two Knights of the Guild representatives, dressed in armor and carrying swords, handed out medallions Monday at Timber Ridge Elementary School in Killeen and at Harker Heights Elementary School.

Knighting ceremonies are scheduled for today at Reeces Creek, Mountain View and West Ward elementary schools.

This week’s ceremonies are the sixth this school year for the character education program. A final ceremony is planned at five elementary schools in May.

At the two schools Monday, two ceremonies honored the kindergarten through second-graders and then the third- through fifth-graders.

Timber Ridge students received medallions for showing the trait of respect. Harker Heights students received awards for showing the trait of friendliness. The program is sponsored by local Rotary Clubs.

“They love it and it helps them,” said Julia Lucky, a counselor at Timber Ridge. “This gives them something to work for that’s extra special. They are always asking me ‘When is the next ceremony?'”

At Timber Ridge, parents of the student award recipients waited in the library for the cafeteria to fill, then stood backstage as students were called up to receive their medallions. It was a surprise to the students.

Teachers chose a recipient for their class based on the character trait of respect. Teachers give five- to 10-minute daily lessons on the monthly trait.

Sir Cass Garcia of the Early Act First Knight program told students at Timber Ridge the story of a knight who journeyed to a barren land and found a crooked, old man planting seeds.

The man told the knight he had made bad choices in life and lost his land and decided to make amends by planting seeds.

Years later the knight returned to find the barren land transformed into a fertile paradise.

“You have the power to plant seeds in people’s lives,” Garcia said, “seeds of hope, compassion and happiness.”

Showing good character

At Harker Heights Elementary School, principal Carolyn Dugger praised the awards program for promoting strong character that translated into good behavior.

As she spoke after the ceremony, students worked to rearrange the cafeteria for lunchtime. “They want to set up the cafeteria,” Dugger pointed out.

She said her school’s students contributed $6,000 to the most recent United Way campaign and gathered a huge collection of canned goods for the Food for Families drive.

Dugger said she sees the character education program played out in the school’s monthly writing exercise.

Dugger said she gives the whole school a monthly assignment to write about something and most recently the topic was “Who is a servant?”

They chose soldiers, grandparents, American heroes and others. “From pre-k to fifth grade, they all knew what service meant and could put a face to it.”