Wells Middle School students in Dublin probably didn't give much thought to the 52 boxes of school supplies they collected last spring once they handed them off to the Blue Star Mothers who shipped the boxes to Mosul, Iraq. Until last week, that is.

When the students entered their multipurpose room for a schoolwide assembly, a slew of dignitaries were there to thank them, including Camp Parks commander Lt. Col. Michael Friend; City Councilman Don Biddle; school board Trustee John Ledahl; Debbie Burrow and Eloise Stone from the Blue Star Moms; and Maj. Eric Boettcher, currently assigned to the 448th Civil Affairs Battalion in Ft. Lewis, Wash.

Boettcher, who recently completed his second tour in Iraq, received the donations in Mosul as part of Operation MROC (Mosul Reconstruction Operations Center.) He thought it was important to visit Wells and let the students know what happened to their donations.

"I wanted to close the loop and show the kids where their supplies went and let them know how much we appreciate their support," he said.

Through a slide show presentation, he showed the Iraqi soldiers who delivered the supplies directly to the people. The photos showed children lining up with their parents while cows walked by and American soldiers provided a boundary of armed protection.

"They don't have the things that you take for granted," Boettcher told the students. "Things like flush toilets, clean potable water and electricity."

The assembly was part of the school's character education program, a unique, site-based program that teachers, counselors and administrators developed three years ago.

"We found that the program we were using before didn't penetrate the school," Principal Kathy Rosselle said.

While adhering to the traits outlined in Dublin's "Integrity in Action," the teachers decide how to incorporate the monthly lesson into their curriculum. The science department may take a different approach than English, but for both, the emphasis is on learning through active participation.

This month the students will write holiday letters for soldiers serving in Iraq. Last month in Heidi Evans' math class, the students wrote letters of appreciation to their parents.

"It's true that this is a school with heart," said Counselor Sarah Marks-Brown. "We have seen suspensions decrease and bullying diminish. We know that not all kids are going to get top grades, but all kids can have good character."

In his presentation, Boettcher linked the monthly character trait, "I am caring," to the soldier's creed, a set of values much like the traits students study and practice in school.

"It was important that the American soldiers didn't receive the credit for the supplies," Boettcher said. "It was a selfless opportunity."

Rosselle was pleased with the school supply drive to Iraq because the soldiers weren't looking for recognition.

"I want the kids to realize that giving isn't about being seen," said Rosselle. "It's about doing the right thing."

Boettcher told the students: "You have helped strangers that you will never meet who are in need. Even though there was fighting going on where we were, there was also a lot of helping and caring."

Reach Amy Moellering at ajmoellering@comcast.net.