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Medal of Honor program aims to inspire C.O. students


More than 70 Central Oregon educators are meeting Monday for training to learn about the Medal of Honor Character Development Program, which is starting with Bend Senior High School and High Desert Middle School

Organizers say the program brings the ideals of courage and selfless service into schools.The goal is to build character, and to promote responsible citizenship.

Best of all, they say, it’s easy for teachers to implement.

“We get pretty fired up as educators when we talk about things that really, really matter, like character, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, courage,” Bend High Assistant Principal Bryan Tebeau said Thursday.

The program for middle and high school students has 39 states already participating, with Oregon just joining the fold.

The first Central Oregon training was so successful, leaders decided to add another session.

Tebeau said staff speak highly of the training, as schools want to use the lesson plans to get students thinking now about courage and service.

“What does it mean to serve? To think outside yourself, looking for someone’s needs and step in? What does it mean in this day and age to have courage — you know, as an eighth-grader?” Tebeau said.

It’s much different from the battlefield, but the same principle applies. The program emphasizes it doesn’t glorify war. Instead, it uses veterans’ stories to get through to students on a deep level.

Robert Maxwell, a Bend World War II veteran and the nation’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, is excited for the program to start in Oregon.

As a retired Bend High teacher, he’s been thinking about how to get students excited about education.

“How can we get schools interested in teaching something that uplifts the character and makes them feel like school is important to them?” Maxwell said.

Bend High and High Desert Middle School are just the start in this program’s plan for Oregon.

“Maintain the momentum, and bring this over into the whole state of Oregon,” said Chris Piper, Oregon’s Medal of Honor liaison. “Because right now, our neighbor to the north, Washington, and our neighbor to the south, California, have very successful programs.”

Maxwell said swearing to serve his country did not mean only during wartime.

“No, that wasn’t just for the duration of the war. It was for the duration of my life. And so I think that’s the thing that I have to get across to the kids: You are servants,” Maxwell said. “That’s the meaning of soldier — servant.”

Leaders of the program say both teachers and students will benefit from the training. The number of cliques and bullies will fall, and good character and behavior will be instilled.

The second training takes place this Monday at McMenamins. The guest of honor is of course, Robert Maxwell, who celebrates his 96th birthday this fall.

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