Celebrate Character Day

This Friday is the second annual Character Day, and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate America’s students – students like DeAndre in Milwaukee.

DeAndre was always driven to learn, but often bullied. His school didn’t have the supports or resources it needed to help all students succeed. But DeAndre stuck with it. And he built on his tenacity with a little help from College Possible, a nonprofit working with students to help them get to and through college, and one of our partners through the Department’s Investing in Innovation fund.

College Possible partnered with DeAndre’s school to help create an environment where more students would be ready for college and their careers. That meant not only coaching students through the mechanics of preparing for college, but also reinforcing students’ sense of purpose and deep understanding that focused efforts now will lead them to a brighter future. When students are inspired by their work and believe that diligent efforts can lead them to success inside and outside of the classroom, they connect present-day learning to lifelong goals, and live out the experience that intelligence can grow through hard work.

These key skills not only prepare students for college and careers, they also are two key ingredients for long-term success according to new research, particularly for students who may be falling behind. And these are just two among the many learnable skills that that educators and researchers now describe as character education, socioemotional learning or non-cognitive skills.

Regardless of what they’re called, these skills can play an important role in building on students’ strengths, and helping them succeed academically.

Of course, like any other skills, they are not a stand-alone solution for the many grave challenges students face, from under-resourced schools to communities that are short on opportunity. But when schools integrate chances to learn these skills into core subjects and classrooms, more students can be on the path to success.

These pathways have created real opportunities for students like DeAndre, who just began his sophomore year at Marquette University and is the first member of his family to go to college. As DeAndre strives to achieve his full potential, he also wants to be model for his younger siblings.

“I want to be that student that pushes onto the next level,” he says, “I can’t stop now.” You can learn more about DeAndre’s story here.

To join in, or to host your own Character Day event, visit www.characterday.org. Please consider lending your voice to this conversation.