Thumbs up:To a celebration of character:

They’re the students that always set a good example in the classroom, and try to shine the brightest both in and out of school.

Each year, these students are rightfully recognized for all they do through the Celebration of Character event sponsored by the Joint Women’s Club of Aiken.

Last week, a total of 223 students earned nominations, with about 200 of them attending the annual event with their parents. All the students received certificates and took home letters of nomination.

Betty Thomason of the Aiken Women’s Club said the faces of the students who receive the awards are always “happy and glowing” during the ceremony.

“They’re very pleased with themselves and the parents are pleased as well,” Thomason said.

The award ceremony certainly offers a greater sense of faith in the future generations of our community and represents youth doing the right thing. It’s also a confirmation in the student’s mind that they’re working on the right path.

Thumbs down:To Harrell case going to ethics committee:

The shortcomings of our state’s ethics system were glaringly exposed last week with a decision in the ongoing case against S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Circuit Judge Casey Manning ordered S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to stop a grand jury investigation into charges of public corruption that were made against Harrell, and ruled that the House Ethics Committee – which is relatively toothless – should instead take the case.

The complaint against Harrell alleges that he used his office for political gain, and it specifically cites Harrell reimbursing himself about $300,000 from his campaign war chest, which included no receipts or itemized invoices accounting for the spending. Wilson reportedly plans to continue an investigation into Harrell despite the judge’s order saying he cannot use a grand jury or other agency to do so.

Regardless of Wilson’s next move, the decision by Manning largely disregards the basis of our judicial system – that everyone should be equal under the law.

Thumbs up:To dining for a cause:

It was a time for good food and friendly service as the community took part in Celebrity Waiter Night last week.

The event, which helps raise money for local nonprofit Children’s Place, benefits children and families who are coping with abuse, instability and traumas.

Fourteen area businesses participated in the event, and they should all be commended.

Children’s Place has touched so many lives through their programs, which are made possible through the goodwill exhibited by the community.

Helping local children is of great importance because it offers stability, and provides hope for the future. Organizations such as Children’s Place are consequently a vital part of our local network of nonprofits because they help those who are at-risk.

It’s heartwarming to see the community embrace such a cause, and bring together needed resources to help generate benefits throughout Aiken County.

Thumbs down:To lack of bike accommodations:

Aiken County unfortunately lacks the infrastructure needed to grow cycling in our community, joining the rest of South Carolina, which consistently ranks as not being pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Although a bicycle and pedestrian plan exists in our area, there are still improvements to be made. According to Tom Lex, Aiken resident and cycling enthusiast, our roadways lack wide shoulders and bike lanes that help promote biking and walking in the area.

South Carolina actually ranked 48th in per capita spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects, according a study by the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, which compared each state’s accommodations.

The state is not totally void of biking facilities, particularly in Greenville, which has become a benchmark for quality recreation in South Carolina.

By investing in greater recreation opportunities such as biking and walking tracks, we can improve quality of life in Aiken County.