Pinelands Regional Junior High Recognized for Character Education
The New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional and Character Development has recognized Pinelands Regional Junior High School with an honorable mention School of Character award, indicating the school’s application “demonstrated a very strong commitment to character education,” said Wildcats in Action student leadership program adviser Tara Zedalis. “It validates our efforts to create a positive school environment that aims to foster a true sense of community.”
Each year, the Character.org advocacy organization and its state affiliates acknowledge districts and schools with a dedicated focus on character development and its positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior and school climate. As Pinelands media liaison Allyson Roberts explained, criteria for the designations are based on the organization’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education, which include providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in character-building efforts.
“This School of Character recognition comes after a lengthy application process completed by the Wildcats in Action Committee, with assistance from other staff members,” she pointed out. “It was a true team effort.”
“I am proud that our entire school, from our administrators to our students, have embraced the importance of character education,” said PRJHS Principal Eric Pschorr. “Our students are entering the world as engaged, thoughtful citizens who are ready to make a real difference.”
Pinelands’ junior high follows the Character Counts national character education program (although the district changed its program’s name to Wildcats in Action). The school, Roberts noted, “implements new lessons about every six weeks focused on one of the six pillars in the original Character Counts program: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Different departments take turns delivering the material. Furthermore, the school distributes ‘pillar awards’ every six weeks to students and staff members who have been nominated by the school community for exhibiting the trait in focus.”
The school will accept its honor at a ceremony during the May 19 NJASECD Annual Conference at Rider University.
Additionally, the school has submitted three “Promising Practices” for possible publication on Character.org’s national website: the Wildcats in Action student leadership program, The CatEye news site and Facebook page, and Random Acts of Kindness Week. “These practices,” said Roberts, “have been designated unique and effective character education strategies that other schools can learn from or even replicate.” —J.K.-H.