SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) Thanks to modern culture, a lot of kids measure success by money, power, and status - at any cost. But this week's Jefferson Award winners are coaching a different message at schools around California and their students are thriving.
Rafael Cazorla takes a deliberate step and brings his tennis racquet forward to meet the ball. But this 11-year-old is doing more than playing a game. He's learning how to build character.
"You work hard, you play hard, and you do hard!" he said.
Cazorla is one of thousands of kids from around California who have mastered several important life skills, guided by former tennis pro Peanut Louie Harper and her husband Tim Harper.
"I had a great family my parents just raised us where just try your best," Louie explained.
"It's about what kind of person are you going to be? What is success?" added Harper.
Six years ago, the Harpers saw a need, and started the nonprofit "Harper for Kids." The goal: to teach children early on how to achieve their personal best. The program is based upon legendary UCLA coach John Wooden's "Pyramid for Success."
"It's not a monetary thing, it's not a status thing," explained USF's men's basketball coach Rex Walters. "It's about the building blocks of truly how to live a happy, healthy, successful life."
On USF's campus, dozens of kids at basketball camp took a break to learn the pyramid. Each block represents a skill.
USF basketball players turned into teachers and acted out each block. The kids guessed them, and learned.
The program has been taught in more than 30 schools. It's free. And San Francisco Unified Assistant Superintendent David Wong said it works.
"It really help us reinforce some of those things we try to teach them," Wong explained.
The lessons are also found in a children's book, "Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success," co-authored by Peanut Harper and the late Coach Wooden.
"It still touches me in so many different ways," said Coach Walters. "And to see my kids -- their eyes light up as we're reading the book."
So for helping kids to understand what it takes to be successful, as well as reminding all of us, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Peanut and Tim Harper.
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