Kern Grant Launches Character Education Center

Canyon Center for Character Education director Emily Farkas says school leaders can be role models of good character.

Mike Kilen story
Pictures of Ralph Freso
GCU News Desk

The Kern Family Foundation awarded a $2.27 million grant to Grand Canyon University to launch the Canyon Center for Character Education.

The three-year grant will be used to elevate character education in pre-K through 12th graders and help current and future educators advance character education.

The GCU Center will enhance the curriculum and deepen the emphasis on virtue and character education in GCU’s Master of Educational Leadership programs. A virtual professional learning lab will be launched for students, alumni, and partner schools, as well as on-campus character education conferences and summits.

Character education helps students develop and strengthen virtues to create whole individuals who contribute to society, says the director of the Canyon Center for Character Education Emilie Farkas.

“A lot of it is about thinking about how to improve yourself as a human being and how to improve the people around you so that you can have a happy, functioning society,” said Farkas, whose background include selection into the competitive graduate program in character education at the University. from Birmingham in England.

The Canyon Center for Character Education is set to launch in July.

The Kern Family Foundation originally awarded GCU $75,000 in 2019 for enhancements to the master’s instructional leadership programs and for the WCC Character Education Conference in December.

WCC Dean Dr Meredith Critchfield stated that character education is central to GCU’s mission.

“As a Christian university, we already bring virtues into our classrooms every day, but now we have funds to make it more intentional,” she said.

Character is infused into a school’s ecosystem, not only in the curriculum and teachers, but also in the administration and staff.

It promotes a caring and fulfilling environment and a positive school climate marked by respect, responsibility, citizenship and trust. It promotes an environment conducive to kindness and patience as well as ways to develop them, from classroom discussions about honesty to holding gratitude days.

“It’s about creating a school where there are leaders and teachers who model virtue, where there is a clear mission and vision around virtuous behavior,” Critchfield said.

“We always teach students what we value, so for me what we need to do is really make explicit those virtues that we value. Sometimes the lessons we end up teaching our students aren’t the right ones because we haven’t made it clear who we are as a school community.

Dr Meredith Critchfield

It may be different for each school depending on the needs of the community and the values ​​most important to the school.

Farkas, a key leader of the original grant’s work, said character education is “caught, taught, and sought after.”

Character can be “caught” by students who see their teachers with a lot of character. It can be taught in a more specialized way – emphasizing the character of topics in literature, for example. Ultimately, students look for ways to develop their own character.

Character education gained attention in the early 1990s and has grown over the past 20 years.

“It’s needed more than ever,” Critchfield said. “We have a fractured world and have really fractured school environments and really fractured feelings about school. So when it all comes together, you have that perfect storm, where virtues fall by the wayside or are lost or forgotten in schools and by parents.

“What’s the point of school if we’re not going to develop a better human who helps make the world a better place?” And you do it with virtue. There is no greater goal.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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