The Character And Ethics Project-
A History And Reflection
by Chip Stone September 18, 2007
The history of the Character and Ethics Project is a success story in which the entire community can take pride. It’s continuing mission of encouraging good character and ethical decision making, the ‘Project’ has succeeded in bringing together all parts of the community for a common purpose. Ownership has been proudly shared by all of the stakeholders.
As 2008 approaches, the project now prepares to celebrate its 10th year anniversary. Here is a history of the C&E Project..
Early Roots — The Youth Leadership Conference
The early roots of The Character and Ethics Project can be traced back to the first Youth Leadership and the Future Conference in 1984. Although the Project would not officially launch for another 14 years in 1998, this Conference proved to be a catalyst for what was to come.
Now in its 24th consecutive year and under the umbrella of The Character and Ethics Project, the Youth Leadership Conference has taken its place as one of our community’s treasured traditions.
Back in 1984 Glendale School and Business leaders and three students, one each from Glendale , Hoover and Crescenta Valley High Schools , visited San Francisco to learn of an effort that was being sponsored by “The Constitutional Rights Foundation”. With the goal of raising awareness for Ethics and the role that character plays in building good leadership skills, the Foundation suggested that communities create their own annual Conference to bring this dialogue forward.
The early Glendale visionaries that led this effort were Jack Quinn (Businessman), Bob Sanchis (Glendale Superintendent of Schools), and Don Empey (Deputy Superintendent of Schools).
They came back inspired and proceeded to invite Burbank and La Canada to join in the partnership; the idea to expand coming from the students themselves. The Glendale School District and the Glendale Chamber of Commerce lent administrative support.
Today, it is one of the few continuing conferences of its kind going on in California and indeed in the country. Over 1700 high school students and an equal number of business and community leaders have now participated in our local Conference. The format of small roundtable discussions where students and adults alike share their views and opinions has proved to be an enduring success.
The Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) has provided continuing leadership for this program in the last 24 years now. Deep gratitude goes out to Mike Seaton and Alice Petrossian who have been integral in the partnership with the schools over the last decade.
The Seeding Of An Idea
In 1998 the guest speaker for the conference was the Ethics Officer of JPL, Mr. Doug Sanders . After a very stimulating conference that year, the Educational committee of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce invited City and School officials, businesses, organizations and individuals to join a task force that would explore expansion of the subject of character and ethics in the community throughout the year.
(Inspired by the leadership of Chip Stone), thirty-two people stepped forward and the task force immediately went to work. These early pioneers for the project can be credited today with moving an idea into action. If it were not for their vision the project would not have materialized.
The committee researched various resources that dealt with the subject of character and ethics. They proceeded to discuss many programs across the country including the Thomas Jefferson Character Education curriculum previously used by the schools, the Character Counts program under the Josephson Institute, and many other programs designed to raise awareness of good character.
The committee continued to meet into the first half of 1999, gathering momentum, partners, and sharing learned experiences. In hind sight, this was a very special time of discovery for all the participants as various constituent groups grew closer. It was a time when inventory of community resources were identified and also a time when the needs of the community in the area were acknowledged. Some very important ideas were taking form. In short the process raised awareness and brought various constituents groups together.
The Task force agreed that the next step would be a community wide ” Summit ” in order to gauge commitment and interest from the broader community. This took place at the Red Lion Hotel, (now the Hilton ), and the event brought together nearly 200 people from the community. Participants chose to go to one or more specific breakout groups that centered on a particular part of the community, or on a particular activity. Some of the breakout categories were Education, Community Service Clubs and Organizations, City of Glendale Departments, Businesses and Corporations, Religious Organizations, and Marketing and PR. By the end of the Summit , members of each breakout group unselfishly agreed to stay on and serve in their respective areas. As a result, some sort of future plans was inevitable and now the template just needed some organization and definition.
What emerged in the last few months of 1999 was a Millennium celebration for Character and ethics in 2000. The task force developed their plans for a full year of activities and would launch the effort at the Youth Leadership Conference to be held in October prior to Y2K kicking off.
It was at this time that the effort was officially named “The Character and Ethics Project”. As the programs and activities were being formulated, there was consensus on the following:
- The Project would be for the whole community. This was not just for the schools.
- The Project would be neutral – politically, religiously, and culturally.
- The Project could cross over geographic borders, just as the YLC did. Thus, ‘ Glendale ‘ was left out of the title so as not to be restrictive. Ownership was for all who shared the mission.
- This would be a grassroots community effort, thus the ‘Project’ would not simply adopt an existing program or use a ‘shelf’ product. It was recognized that the process of articulating and defining the project was in itself a strength and contributor for success.
Insert LOGO HERE The Logo that is in place today was contracted out for professionally. The image suggesting individuals of a community or family and of different ages all reaching up for higher ideals together captured the consensus of the group, after reviewing a number of suggestions. The first brochure for the Project was designed and published shortly thereafter.
Programs And Projects Launch
As the new millennium arrived, the committee brought forth the following activities in celebration of the Character and Ethics Project:
WORD OF THE MONTH
This was the very first project of the committee. Those who participated in the process will never forget it. Over a number of sessions of several hours, twelve words representing the guiding principals were selected one for each month of the year. These words would become the focus points for the year ahead as the community would celebrate each. As a side note, this was not an easy endeavor. Not all words suggested were chosen and a couple of words that were selected were later changed. But in the end, the discussion proved to be healthy and inspirational for the group.
EDUCATIONAL IDEA BOOK
A resource book was developed by GUSD and then distributed to teachers and schools. Using the ‘word of the month’, there were recommendations made to teachers on how they could infuse the message into the classroom. This book was used by the educational community, which continued to evolve and grow as more and more teachers and administrators took ownership of the program.
KICK OFF CELEBRATION
At the end of January 2000, the community came together for a Kick off Celebration at the Glendale Galleria. Representatives from the City, Chamber, School District , and community all participated in the Program. Against a backdrop of streamers and balloons, dance troupes and singing groups from the southland performed routines that highlighted the theme of character and ethics. Also, a special speaker, a professor from Pepperdine University , delivered a keynote address to the audience on the importance of the subject matter. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony and program as the Project enjoyed it’s coming out party. The Glendale Galleria was a perfect venue for the event.
CHARACTER AND ETHICS COMMUNITY AWARDS
The committee launched a recognition program to celebrate individuals who exemplified good character and ethical decision making. The committee initially proposed doing these ceremonies monthly to match up with the word of the month, but soon moved to a quarterly event where recipients could be acknowledged in the spirit of any of the monthly themes. This program has brought together every corner of our community from business people, City employees, School District personnel, to members of community organizations. Recipients and their families have come forth to make this a very special event as we celebrate the best of our community. Later on in its growth, this program inspired the Spirit Award to give special recognition to the best of the best each year.
This effort came out of the “Religious” Task force where members wanted to raise the awareness of Ethics and Character through a public dialogue and/or debate format that would feature representatives from various constituent groups. The City of Glendale agreed to air the forums on channel 6. There were three forums that took place: Ethics in the Entertainment Industry; Ethics in Business; and Family and Individual Ethics. The Forums were all moderated by Professional facilitators, (News anchors, University professors, etc), and the participants represented many of the areas’ leading corporations, such as DreamWorks, Disney, Nestle, etcAll of the Forums were very successful as the participants offered varying and sometimes opposing opinions and points of view. The City and Ch. 6 carried the forums as programming over a 6-9 month time period. As a complement to the Forums, the city began doing PSA ‘s that ran frequently and featured City employees giving testimonials to the ‘words’ of the month.
2000 YOUTH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
In it’s 16th year at the time, this Signature event for the project proved to be something pretty special in 2000 as the year’s activities brought forth a new awareness for the subject matter. This venue of Student and Community leaders discussing the importance of good character and leadership skills has continued to be an inspiration and catalyst for the mission of the project.
C & E KIDS
The idea of this youth choral group originated towards the end of the year, and went on to warm the hearts of the community for several years following, thanks to the vision, talents, and dedication of Jennifer Russell. Also joining the project at that time were Chris and Susan Holder who have contributed so much of their talent and time to the project. Pulling from students ages 6-17, the group performed songs and routines that were produced specifically to celebrate the C & E’s mission and ‘words’ of the month. The students worked hard to develop their skills by dedicating hours of rehearsal time and received professional instruction in voice and dance. Making public appearances for many years, the C&E kids were arguably the best ambassadors for the project as they celebrated the best of our community. The song “This is our Community” Video remains a mainstay public relations piece for the project to this day.
The following groups are recognized as the Founding Partners of the Character and Ethics as a result of its 2000 celebration and introduction:
The Glendale Unified School District
Glendale Chamber of Commerce
City of Glendale
Glendale Community College
Verdugo School to Career Coalition
The Decision To Continue
When the efforts for 2000 were being planned it is important to note that there was no feeling of certainty that it would continue past the end of the year. With all the efforts going into pulling off the various projects mentioned above, there was not a lot of time to discuss strategy and what, if anything, would happen after 2000.
The discussion to continue started to emerge somewhere in mid September 2000. Thanks to a very dedicated group of people from across the community, the year had gone better than we could have ever hoped for. There was a buzz around the community, an embracing of the Project’s mission, and perhaps most important of all there was a sense of sincere ownership.
Moving a one year campaign to an Institutionalized program would seem like a large endeavor, and it was, but the groundwork had been laid and much of the energy was already in place. And as the 2000 Youth Leadership Conference approached in October, the commitment to continue had been made and the conference that year would signify the launch of a new organization in town. The event and project chairs stayed on, and thus the bridge forward was in place.
Creating The Foundation
As the project moved through 2001, activities and momentum grew and the committee knew it was time to organize the project into an independent foundation. There was confidence and enthusiasm to institutionalize the ‘Project’ and clearly a consensus from all the stakeholders. The forms were filed, the by-laws created, and Glendale was introduced to its newest non-profit.
This early stage of the foundation brought the need for administrative support and infrastructure. Thanks to the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, the ‘Project’ had had a home in its’ inception, but it was clear that an alternate site would need to be identified as the project grew. That space was donated by the Glendale YMCA who had been, and continues to be, a friend to the project and strong supporter of its mission. The Executive Director of the YMCA at the time, Bob Driffil , arranged for an office in the old building and the Project began to set up shop.
But with growth comes costs, and for a non-profit the first couple of years are critical. Brochures had to be printed, letters had to be mailed, a computer had to be secured, and communications had to be secured. And if possible this all volunteer effort would soon be in need of administrative support.
Two of our Founding partners, the Glendale Unified School District and the City of Glendale , provided seed money for a period of two years. In hindsight, that predictable funding for those 24 months allowed the project to get on its feet. The funds were used prudently for program development, marketing, and professional support of an Executive Director. When that seed money terminated, the project stood on its own as it does today thanks to the community at large and to all those people and organizations that have stepped forward to support the message.
Nearly 10 years later, The City and the Glendale Unified School District can be proud of that investment. A good deal of that credit goes to Board member Don Galleher who has headed up the development committee for many years.
A special note of thanks goes out to the Glendale Community Foundation for their support at this time. The late Tom Miller was a good friend to the project and worked hard to help the project build much needed alliances and sponsors.
Looking To The Future..new Programs And Projects
The next several years brought forth new ideas and successes as the project continued to reach and serve the community. Following is a rich sampling of further activities that various boards have undertaken for the Project:
This program, based on the Search Institute’s ’40 Developmental Assets’ guidelines, replaces alternative to suspension duty for GUSD high school students with a Saturday morning class dedicated to the study of honesty, integrity, responsibility and compassion. The classes are held at a local fire station where the students can see first hand examples of these four words of the month in action.
The ‘Pursuing Victory With Honor’ Sportsmanship Program
In addition to training coaches, athletes, officials, parents, and referees, this program has provided realistic strategies and solutions that apply on and off the field. Local youth sports programs as well as high school athletics have come together to stress the importance of getting the very best out of Athletics. An all city ‘Sports Summit’ originally kicked off this program back in 2001 and now in the fall of 2007 a 2nd Sports Summit has been brought to the community thanks to the City of Glendale and GUSD.
As this is being written, both the City and the School District are working to develop a coach’s accreditation program that can be rolled out in the coming year.
Word of the Month Calendar
Local and K through 12 students compete annually in the C&E Calendar Art contest. The winning entry for each Word of the Month is printed in the full color calendar, and the overall winner is used as the cover art for the annual calendar. Our Youth, year after year, captures the inspiration of the Project in art and helps raise awareness of the mission as the calendar is distributed throughout the community.
C&E Spirit Award
From the list of honorees of the Quarterly Awards, a person is chosen annually to receive the Character and Ethics Spirit Award. This person exemplifies and is dedicated to the spirit of the Project, and serves the community with selflessness and integrity. In 2006, the Award was named in honor of Tom Miller who had been a long standing supporter of the Project.
Character Lending Library
Catering to the developmental needs of primary students, a lending library of Ethics and Character-building educational books has been made available for GUSD teachers seeking enrichment curriculum. The featured books included age=appropriate stories about animal characters who face moral dilemmas and learn important life lessons along the way.
The Project assisted the City of Glendale in developing a comprehensive written code of conduct for all employees, enabling a better understanding of acceptable workplace behavior and problem resolution for supervisors and employees alike.
Held annually this tournament has all the professional touches and provides the project with much needed funding for its philanthropic needs. Always held at a top rate course, the event offers participants and the community a chance to come together and celebrate the Project in an enjoyable and informal venue.
The Character and Ethics Project is grateful to the Community for bringing this project to life and sustaining its mission. Few cities have stepped forward to build a grass roots comprehensive program for Character and Ethics as Glendale and the Foothills have. Its growth and continuance is a testimony to its importance.
As is the case with any non-profit, enough cannot be said for the many members of the Board of Directors over the last 10 years that have done so much for the Project. From an all volunteer base, individuals and organizations have taken ownership of the Project and given it shape and form. Those individuals have impacted our City and its citizens in so many ways.
Each of our past presidents has taken the project to a higher level:
Now as the organization gets ready to begin its 2nd decade under the leadership of long time board member Adel Luzuriaga, an enthusiastic board is continuing to explore innovative ways in which to raise awareness and carry forth its’ message of Character and Ethics.