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UC holds NAIA Champions of Character Reading Day at Whitley schools


Williamsburg, KY., - Being on a team at University of the Cumberlands (UC) means much more to the student- athletes than simply playing a game. The student-athletes from UC work hard to not only be efficient teammates in their chosen sport but to be key players in the community as well. During UC’s Fall Break, several student-athletes from five different athletic teams traveled to Whitley Intermediate and Whitley Primary schools to participate in the NAIA Champions of Character Reading day.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Champions of Character program is designed to instill an understanding of character values in sports and provide practical tools for student-athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators to use in modeling exemplary character traits. The NAIA developed the Champions of Character program in response to the growing problem of deteriorating standards of integrity in sports and society.


The NAIA Champions of Character program has established five core values that stretch well beyond the playing field. The NAIA identifies those core values as: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. These character values help student-athletes and those associated with their development, make good choices in all aspects of their life and reflect the true spirit of competition. UC’s athletes read selected books to the Whitley County Primary and Intermediate students to help spread these important values and be upstanding role models to the kids.

“We are so grateful that you guys took the time again this year to come read to our classes,” said Whitley County Central Primary teacher, Rob Powers. “The students look forward to you coming and we are just truly thankful.”

Several classrooms were chosen to have stories read to them by UC’s athletes ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. All of the stories that were selected were from the approved NAIA list of Character Education books and each taught a valuable lesson or had a memorable moral to teach the children. After the books were read, the athletes talked personally to the class about the book’s value and morals. Some of the football players even invited the classrooms to come out to the UC football game to support them. The children cheered as their excitement over the invitation grew.

“Did you hear that?” said one kindergarten student to another. “He asked us to come watch them play college football! You do know they are famous, don’t you?”

In Mrs. Dingess’ class, four UC football players read a book about showing good sportsmanship. After the story, they asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their favorite sports and subjects were, and even took the time to do the Sid Shuffle with them, which is a kid’s dance from the Disney movie, Ice Age. The students all participated and loved the fact that the football players were interested in something they like. Before the players left, they had the entire class huddle up in the middle of the classroom and threw their arms up as they yelled, “Patriots” together as a group.

Another classroom to receive champion treatment was Mrs. McCullah’s sixth grade class where four UC swimmers read the book titled, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. McCullah had been teaching about possible careers since Career Readiness begins in sixth grade. After the story was read, she asked that the swimmers discuss their majors, college experience, and future plans with the students to provide them with motivation and first-hand experience. The UC students gladly spoke with the students and conducted a productive question and answering session.

In Mrs. Meadors’ fourth grade class, the book was surrounded around the topic of respect. The student athletes from UC asked the class what they thought it meant to respect your country. A student responded by saying, “Patriotism.” The athletes asked why it was important to respect others. Another student replied, “If you respect them, they will have respect for you.”

The UC student-athletes from various athletic teams created a positive atmosphere in the Whitley County Schools that day and the students looked up to them and seemed to hang on to their every word. College athletes tend to have a stronger impact on children than what they may think so it is crucial that they stick to the five core values that they preach and continue to set a good example for the future athletes of their communities.

The athletic program at UC offers student-athletes seeking high-level competition a personal and meaningful experience. UC is a member of the Mid-South Conference, which is one of the toughest leagues in the NAIA, and compete against similar affiliated institutions that are also committed to the idea of a well-rounded student-athlete.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; 10 pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information visit