Suit of armor

Knightly (and daily) program sponsored by the Rotary Club ingrains character in students

The sword—the one they use to knight the fifth-graders—is real.

The knight or lady conferring knighthood is real, too, or at least so it seems to the students when they compare them to their teachers and principal, who are merely dressed up as gentlemen and ladies of the court for the ceremony.

EarlyAct FirstKnight® (EAFK) is a proprietary program of The Knights of The Guild that works to build character in children by teaching ten traits: compassion, confidence, discipline, friendliness, honesty, perseverance, respect, responsibility, service, and tolerance.

Students study a trait across subjects for several weeks through short lessons, stories, books, and games. By the end of the segment, the students know the ins and outs of that trait.

Knighting a fifth grader

“We don’t just give them the definition,” says Melanie Griffin, a fifth-grade teacher at Mitchell Elementary School. “We say, ‘This is what it looks like. This is how you do it. This is how it makes people feel. This is how it makes you feel.’ Then we create the time and place for them to practice.”

The teachers, in some cases with the students’ help, determine who most exemplifies that trait during the segment. Each winner receives a medal at the ceremony, during which the principal reads the teacher’s accolade describing the winner. The fifth-grade winners also are knighted.

“It’s a way to focus on their strengths,” Griffin says. “And our students are really proud of each other. It’s neat to see them be excited for a classmate.”

EarlyAct FirstKnight medal

The tears—the ones streaming down the student’s face when he won a medal at a ceremony this past February—were real.

“He probably didn’t expect to ever win a medal,” explains Rob Dyer, Mitchell’s principal. “Academics weren’t necessarily his strength, but there are other areas he’s really strong in. His parents told me he’s continuing to do well. It was a turning point for him.”

Because of the generosity of the Rotary Club of Georgetown, Mitchell’s 755 students have participated in EAFK for three years. Matching funds were also provided by Rotary District 5870 and Rotary International. The club raised funds to add the program at Williams Elementary last year and Ford Elementary this year.

Speaker at Early Act First Knight Ceremony

“By the end of the first semester, you could see the change in kids and in the culture of our school,” Dyer says. “You create role models, you recognize those kids for being role models, and you hope that other kids will emulate that.”

The cost per school breaks down to between a nickel and a dime per student per day. “I think it’s a pretty small price to pay for what we’re getting out of it,” Dyer says.

The impact—on each student, the entire student body, and the staff—is real, too. It’s present, for example, in the advice of a first-grade winner of the friendliness medal: “Be nice, and if you can’t be nice, at least don’t be mean”—wise words for children and adults alike.

Early Act First Knight ceremony

The Rotary Club of Georgetown will hold its 15th annual fundraiser, benefitting several Georgetown youth programs including EarlyAct FirstKnight®, on April 17 at 6 p.m., at the Georgetown Community Center. This year’s gala, with a dinner and auction, is themed “Light Up Georgetown Through Rotary.” Gala tickets, tables, sponsorships, and catalog ads may be purchased online, and items may be donated online, at

The Georgetown Sun City Rotary Club will host the second-annual Rotary Fest Dinner Dance and raffle on May 29 from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Sun City Ballroom. Proceeds will be used to sponsor EarlyAct FirstKnight and other local charities. “Evening in Paris” will feature the Rock-A-Fellas, a cover band, at the dance, dinner, and silent auction. Raffle tickets for a customized Yamaha golf cart from Ennis Golf Carts or a Visa gift card for $6,000. For more information, go to

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