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Jefferson County High School builds Patriots through Medal of Honor program

JCHS implemented the Medal of Honor Character Development Program into curriculum to help students learn the importance of not only service but also kindness.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — At Jefferson County High School, students have a unique window into what it means to be a Patriot. 

The school implements Medal of Honor values into the curriculum through the Character Development Program.

Starting in 9th grade and going through 12th, students spend a section of their day, called the “Patriot Power Period” learning about the heroes behind the medal and what it means to live a life of courage, sacrifice and kindness.

Because of the school’s commitment to the Character Development Program, the Medal of Honor Society chose JCHS to host Medal of Honor recipients for the second time in the last decade.

"I think it's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not every school gets to do it,” JCHS senior and Command Sergeant Major Michael Johnson said.

Students spent the beginning of the year getting ready for the special guests. JROTC students ironed flags, the band and chorus practiced patriotic songs, art students created special drawings all to welcome the American heroes on Sept. 7.

"They are recipients and not winners because it's in their mindset to go above and beyond,” JCHS Junior Molly Johnson said. “They're like real-life superheroes because it's in their heart and mind to look out for others before themselves."

That's the mindset JCHS wants to drive home in every student, that's why the six core values of the Character Development Program hang proudly throughout the halls: courage, integrity, commitment, sacrifice, citizenship and patriotism.

Principal Dr. Monty Sharp, a decorated Navy veteran himself, knew the school would be a perfect fit for the program. He takes it very seriously and knows the teachers and students do as well.

“These are, of course, all values that we would like to instill in the upcoming generations as well as the present generations that we have, so that's something that is near and dear to our heart,” Sharp said.

Any school can implement the free program into class time, and the home of the Patriots is glad they did.

“Every freedom that we have, somebody paid the ultimate sacrifice for it, and we need to look at that, and we need to honor that and we need to teach them that,” said Cyndi McClancy, a 9th grade history teacher.

Throughout the school year, the curriculum focuses on not just the medal of honor heroes, but life lessons. The one McClancy likes to emphasize is kindness.

"Through this program, they are learning kindness, they are learning to support each other, they are learning to stand up for each other,” McClancy said.

The curriculum is easy to teach in a history class setting, but other teachers aren’t straying away from the topic, like biology teacher Brandon Tuggle. He said it promotes positive classroom culture.

"I love to start off my year by using the videos that are designed to explore what the Medal of Honor is, and exploring how those six core values lead to these recipients who have been blessed with this award,” Tuggle said.

While teachers know their words are heard in the classroom, the lessons go beyond the four walls.

"The earlier we get with these students and show them, it's very important to not only be confident in themselves but also try to improve their communities, I think it's better for everyone,” 9th grade history teacher Dan Edmonds said.

With a mascot like the Patriots, red, white and blue are displayed every day.

“It’s a patriotic school, it's a patriotic community,” Sharp said. “We have a wonderful faculty and staff here and we have wonderful students."

From the students who want to make the military a career, and those who don't, they all wear the Medal of Honor lessons with pride.

On the day of the school visit, JCHS hosted Medal of Honor recipients Tommy Nelson and Matt Williams. Both men spoke of how important those six core values are in life and in the service. They each offered advice to believe in yourself, and don't shy away from being patriotic.

The Medal of Honor Celebration began Wednesday and is an annual gathering for recipients of the United States' highest military award for valor.

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