'People are good': A video message from GCU students

Chloe Houge pitches kindness in a new Canyon Center for Character Education video.

Chloe Houge calls herself a reserved person who sometimes “struggles with being comfortable with people and being vulnerable.”

Yet the Grand Canyon University junior shed any discomfort to be one of four students to appear in a new Canyon Center for Character Education video series, “GCU Student Voices from the Field.” She decided to gear her message on character to “who I am as a person,” one who wants to teach future generations.

“We are teaching them kindness, empathy, passion and compassion, all those things are started young ...” said the early childhood education major.

Houge said in an interview that children are looking to you for an example. It’s important they feel loved and valued.

The series is a takeoff of the “Voices from the Field” videos on the center's YouTube channel with, so far, more than a dozen partner K12 schools featured. GCU students could show there is character to showcase right on campus, too.

The Canyon Center for Character Education, launched in 2022 with a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, shares resources and knowledge with area schools, GCU faculty and students on creating a culture centered on character formation and human flourishing.

“The goal is to highlight that we have students here with good character, show the impact they are making and inspire other people,” said Emily Farkas, the center's program director. “We are all about positive character, so highlighting examples of good character by our students hopefully will impact other people to consider doing such thoughtful things, too.”

Another example in the video is from senior Elise Whitman, who created an apparel line and donates more than half of her sales to help victims of sex trafficking.

“Just showing people incredible amounts of love is the greatest show of character,” she said in the video, which also features student Ben Bjornstad, who launched a foundation to help the homeless population.

But it’s not just showcasing big efforts such as creating nonprofits, Farkas said. “It can be as simple as holding open a door for a person, which happens all the time here.”

GCU's culture – and the example of her Iowa parents – is what Houge said has formed her character.

“From my parents I learned that you matter in this world. Your opinions matter, and you have to respect the opinion of others,” she said. “They told me how to be strong, how to respect individuals and how to get respect from other people.”

Moving far from home to GCU was scary at first but helped build her character.

“My first day of class I thought it would be a time that people would be nervous because they don’t know who you are, but they were so open and welcoming,” she said. “I am more reserved, but there are people who wanted to Snapchat or connect after class. We truly have people who want to be friends and want to love on one another.

“A lot of that comes from being Christian-based, although not all of my friends are practicing Christians. It is the environment expected at GCU, so people follow it.”

Juniors Chloe Houge (left) and Jayden Brust take part in an exercise on civic virtue during a meeting of the Lopes Lead with Character student group.

While she joined the regular meetings of the Lopes Lead with Character student group, it's what she witnesses daily that is just as important.

“Even just walking to classes and seeing students talking to each other kindly and smiling at each other, I feel like this is a place … where people are so outgoing and genuinely want to get to know who you are.”

It was also out of the comfort zone of Abi Layne to appear in a video, but she wanted to share what she has learned in early childhood education classes and as a volunteer in classrooms while in high school.

Our character, she said, is often a reflection of who we are around most. And she was around kindergartners.

GCU student Abi Layne was inspired by the light in the eyes of kindergartners.

“That is where it clicked for me, seeing these young kids in a classroom and how excited and happy they are to see you,” said the junior. “How they just want to do good. They just need proper guidance.

“It’s the light in their eyes, they want to make you proud, and they want to do good.”

So she sat before the camera for the first of what the center hopes are other efforts by students to send in their own examples of character they witness or practice, including an upcoming video with students who are volunteering with children with autism at an area school.

“The biggest thing I want to communicate is there is good in everyone, even if I didn’t know how to say it myself, just doing it shows they can do it, too,” Layne said.

“Being in education has swayed me to have that belief. We all come from different backgrounds, and there are different things that happen in our lives, but I do think people are innately good. Even if something bad has happened to them, people are good.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

Send in your video: To share your personal stories of character, students can email contact information and video to [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU News: My goodness, students put character on display

GCU News: Character center's videos highlight good 'vibe' in schools

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