Lancaster’s Como Park Elementary is the only school in Western New York, and one of only four in the state, to win recognition as a “National School of Character” from the nonprofit Character.org.
“I don’t know if people truly understand how big that is, but certainly that’s a wonderful achievement for (Principal Molly Marcinelli), all her teachers and her staff, and her students, so congratulations again and again and again,” Lancaster Central Superintendent Michael Vallely repeated at a June school board meeting, according to the Lancaster Bee.
Character.org explains that schools honored with the distinction first gain recognition as state schools of character for a “dedicated focus on character development with a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, school climate and their communities.”
Character.org reviews the schools based on “11 Principles of Effective Character Education” that considers things like how schools foster leadership, provide opportunities for students to take action, and work with families and the community to build character in students.
The nonprofit recognizes schools worldwide, with a total of 73 schools across the U.S. named a National School of Character this year.
Principal Marcinelli credited the success to staff and parents in the community who support the school’s character building efforts, which start with a focus on basic manners and develops into service work, fundraising and other opportunities.
“Parents, students, staff everyone was a part of achieving this award because it does truly take a village,” she said. “I can’t say enough about the character of my parent community, and my staff is just hands down the best there is.”
Marcinelli said Como Park educators have worked to engrain character lessons throughout the school to ensure “everybody in the building is treated with the same level of respect,” an initiative that extends to teaching students how to respectfully address drivers when boarding and exiting buses.
“We have … not bought into one-shot assemblies and things like that and canned programs that try to teach character,” she said. “We have worked on just teaching kids basic things such as shaking hands, eye contact, ‘Good mornings’ and ‘Have a nice day.’”
Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture founder James Davison Hunter writes in “The Death of Character”:
Implicit in the word ‘character’ is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.
The work of Como Park Elementary staff to foster character and citizenship in students illustrates the powerful role schools play in shaping youngsters into responsible, compassionate adults.
Educators looking for tips on developing strong character virtues in students can find quality, grade-specific lessons and exercises through the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s website.
The foundation covers a wide range of values, grade levels and subject matter, as well as an entire Medal of Honor curriculum with living history videos of role models who have received the country’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration.