This is an award-winning social engagement campaign that had been purchased by schools up
until 2008, when funding for such programs was cut in schools. In 2006 our Executive Director,
Elaine Stevens Parke even traveled to Rwanda to teach the materials to school superintendents
and in 2008 we received a commendation from the Republic of Rwanda. In 2015, our board began
offering the copyrighted materials and programming as a pilot in Morgan County, West Virginia
free of charge, because we truly feel that now, more than ever, there is a need. We not only
believe that this work is important as social education but also, that it can provide jobs across
various sectors of industry.
For those who question whether a concept using brightly colored products and positive messaging
can work to produce jobs, I give you a quote from one of the original owners of another familiar
brand, which also appears to have stood the test of time, Fiestaware. Interestingly enough, this
quote can be found on the wall in the Cultural Center at the West Virginia State Capitol and this
company is also based in West Virginia.
Since our upstart in Morgan County, 12 Habits For Wonderful People has employed two full-time
employees and can attribute another $133,263 in volunteer hours in our last fiscal year. Using
only $11,665 for supplies and materials, we have distributed more than 50,000 pieces of printed information. As a multi-media campaign, we produce a monthly article in The Morgan Messenger, our local newspaper and also network on all major social media, including YouTube for our popular Morgan County Kids Talk Show.
For individuals, author Elaine Stevens Parke published The Universal Golden Rule Revolution which is a daily devotional-style book for inspiring healthy habits. The book is available through Amazon or by calling our office at 304-707-2175.
While we are currently funded through a private trust, that trust does not have the ability to fund beyond our current capacity. At present, we could easily employ another 6 people just for our efforts in Morgan County, including 2-3 teacher coordinators which would add funds to their base pay. According to our projections, in just a few short years we could be a company that is worth millions of dollars, should we have the ability to go statewide.
There is no question that this project can create jobs because it has already done so, but the discussion about 12 Habits For Wonderful People should not be limited to the jobs question. We live in precarious times. The chaos has created a lot of people who are afraid and who are turning to unhealthy habits, especially here in West Virginia. This in turn has made for not only bad press about West Virginia but has even caused those who love our state to behave in an almost a despondent way about the situation. This almost certainly affects our economy overall. According to one Gallup survey, “West Virginia has the highest percentage of actively disengaged workers.” in the United States.
So, the question remains how many jobs can be created by what is basically social education? Our model is simplistic and can be used across multiple sectors of industry. It is non-denominational and can be tailored to almost any platform, but most of all it's all positive messaging. It works much the same way as when you find yourself humming a catchy tune from a commercial.
If we projected by what we are currently doing here in Morgan County through education and community-based supporters, as stated we could employee a total of 8 people for continued servicing just the way it is now. Applied to all West Virginia counties, that's 440 employees at minimum in education. That number is probably low because there are many more schools in other counties as compared to Morgan County. On a localized scale we would require a minimum of an additional 4 people if we started sending out programming through local tourism and health avenues (2 each), one person to coordinate through the existing institutions and another person for the additional IT work. Who knows what that number may be if we coordinated through the state.
Back in 2008, this curriculum was only available in print and on disc. We are now updating and hope to place our model and materials online. Our board is willing to provide the copyrighted materials to West Virginia however, we are looking for help and support in providing the avenues through which we can reach the ever-increasing numbers of those who need this type of influence in their lives.
How Our Model Is Different
Although our curriculum has been around since the 1990s it falls in line with other innovative thinking concerning education, as described in the book by Paul Tough. Here is a link to some discussion regarding his concepts: How Children Succeed Discussion Guide. We believe that many well-intending people are trying to find the answers and help for what plagues West Virginia, but we hate to see those funds and efforts wasted without taking advantage of every avenue for success. If just the use of evidenced-based programs through education worked in West Virginia's situation, there would be more evidence of it. You can't just teach skills like motivation, perseverance, and self-control like a class. That is not to say the effort is a complete waste. Those models may help reinforce those people/children who already possess those skills and who are already receiving services and participating in organizations like the Boys and Girls Club but they don't address the ones truly in need.
When you review the financial reports of many organizations who rely purely on “evidence-based” programming, you will find that their expenses are mostly to employ staff and provide a means to deduct their own professional development expenses. You will also find that many are funded through the coffers of the criminal justice system. In education, this in and of itself sets a dangerous precedent in the minds of some parents, explaining the rise in homeschooling in West Virginia. Parents are very aware that their children may be used to peek into their homes. While they may be doing nothing wrong, their protective instincts can result in a suspicion of educators, which in turn could undermine the programs effectiveness or “evidence” reporting. Children are just as instinctual as their parents when it comes to protecting their family. If they feel general questions are too prying, they will lie. That is why we conduct our surveys specific to our program, rather than relying on generalized questioning. We do not even ask for names on our surveys and yet we've still seen middle school students “take the fifth”! Our Survey and our Results (A PowerPoint Presentation)from students at Warm Springs Middle School 2015-2016.
Moreover, many organizations are really not providing any tangible services for widespread social education. They are missing the key components that our model provides. Through cooperation, our methods can provide more substance to their efforts and we are happy to consider partnerships with them but without programs like ours, they are just a means of employment for a very small, specified group of people who are professionals in their field. West Virginia also needs jobs for those who are not so accomplished and a lot of them to get ourselves out of our current economic woes. We have identified tourism, health and education as equally promising opportunities for spreading our model. For examples, please click to download these PDFs: Tourism.PDF, Health.PDF, Education.PDF. Our model also utilizes STEM and Arts projects for delivery methods.
Martha L. Rhodes
12 Habits For Wonderful People
273 Wilkes, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Personal Cell: 304-707-1510