Spotswood middle school earns National School of Character certification

SPOTSWOOD–Chosen along with 46 other worldwide schools, Spotswood’s Memorial Middle School received Character.org’s 2021 National Schools of Character certification.

Character.org certified 47 schools and one district as National Schools of Character. Schools in Brazil and Mexico were also certified, according to a prepared statement from the non-profit organization.

“We are pleased to announce and celebrate the schools and school district that have earned this national recognition,” President of Character.org Arthur Schwartz said in the statement. “The educators at these schools model and reinforce the core values of respect and dignity. They are teaching their students to be honest and trustworthy, to contribute their time and talents to the common good, and when necessary, to show the courage to stand up for what is right.”

Founded in 1993, Character.org is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to provide the voice, visibility,and resources for educators to build nurturing and supportive school cultures that focus on core values and character strengths vital to student and school success, according to the statement.

The schools and districts that apply must meet the rigorous standards articulated in Character.org’s 11 Principles Framework for Schools. Each school is assessed by a team of trained evaluators, according to the statement.

Memorial Middle School Principal Brian Kitchin said in order to be considered as a National School of Character, schools first need to be recognized as a State School of Character by receiving high scores in an evaluation of each of the 11 principles.

“Schools that meet these requirements are eligible for a national review by Character.org. Included in that review is a rigorous evaluation of our application as well as a site visit of our school with representatives of Character.org,” Kitchin said. “This site visit provides the evaluator the chance to investigate all aspects of the program we provide but it was also an opportunity for our students, staff and community members to share our own voice and demonstrate who we truly are.”

Kitchin said the school has applied to become a State School of Character each of the past three years.
“In 2019 and 2020 we were one of a handful of Honorable Mention Schools of Character in New Jersey. We were also named a Promising Practices School and I had the opportunity to speak at Character.org’s national forum to share some of the work we have done to help struggling learners as well as a unique and collaborative approach to professional development,” Kitchin said. “This year we were excited to receive New Jersey School of Character and we were scored high enough in each of the 11 principles of character that we were eligible for national review.”
Kitchin said he believes that being able to highlight the school’s strong state application coupled with its promising practices is ultimately what led the school to receive this prestigious honor.

“We congratulate these schools for completing the application and review process in a year that has been anything but typical,” Lori Soifer, who directs the Schools of Character program, said in the statement. “Each of these schools has put in place a comprehensive approach to help students understand, care about, and consistently practice the character strengths that will help them flourish in school, in relationships, in the workplace, and as citizens.”

Character.org will honor the 2021 National Schools of Character at its next annual forum, to be held virtually Oct. 20-22.

“Being named a National School of Character is a tremendous honor and our school community is so proud of all the work we have done to achieve it. That being said, while it is nice to enjoy the fruits of our labor with this award, this has always been more about the journey than the destination,” Kitchin said. “I feel so blessed to be a part of a school community that values growth. This amazing staff and the wonderful students we serve are always looking to push ourselves forward.

“When students come through Memorial we don’t just set out to enrich their minds, we want to prepare these kids to be great human beings and a positive influence on the world around them,” he said.

For more information about Character.org, visit www.character.org/history

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.