Young people everywhere who are educated, inspired and empowered to be ethical and engaged citizens.


Providing the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a just and caring world.

Exciting times for CEP!  On August 27th, we officially entered our 20th year of operation. To mark this milestone and further honor the enduring legacy of our late founder, Sanford McDonnell, we have expanded our mission and vision now to include families and communities, everywhere!

When I arrived at CEP last January, I found a nonprofit blessed with deeply motivated and passionate staff, members and board. But having just spent the previous decade in the role of K-12 schools superintendent, I also knew that educators can only do so much on their own to build and strengthen the character of our young people. After all, an overworked student can often say, “I don’t have Spanish (or History, or Math) tomorrow, so I’m not going to do that homework today.”  But none of us would want that same student to think, “I don’t have to have character today.”

On the contrary, we at CEP recognize that character education is truly a 24/7, lifelong endeavor. And class is always in session, both in school and out. So families and communities play key roles that are just as important.

Ideally, impressionable children need to run into people and experiences that enhance their character everywhere they go. Therefore, CEP now is excited to add parents, grandparents, coaches, and other community youth leaders to our target market for character development programs and tools.

Young people everywhere—a mighty big vision, indeed. Yes, as the term implies, this means that CEP no longer will feel limited by the borders of the United States. Instead, we have begun working actively with like-minded international partners worldwide to broaden our vision and influence.

In fact, on Nov 1st, to kick off our 19th Annual National Forum on Character Education, we will host our first-ever International Summit of “thoughtleaders” from around the globe who will help us to plan our entry onto the world stage. And we will do so as partners, not competitors.

Thinking above and beyond the box.

Looking beyond our traditional K-12 market, we also prototyped a week-long college outreach program this year that we hope to roll out to more campuses in 2013. Hosted last June by the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, our inaugural ‘Leaders of Character’ Camp asked college seniors to mentor, teach and encourage high school sophomores and juniors from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Together, they focused on discussing key virtues of character and applying them to their everyday lives through multiple team-building exercises. Representatives from several other colleges and universities attended and observed our program with an eye toward bringing the lessons learned home with them. As a result, “train the trainer” workshops and many more camps are now being considered.

As part of our multi-pronged approach to expand CEP at all levels, we also will launch a new membership model in 2013. We are still formulating our strategy for that, though, so many of you will be contacted in the near future to solicit your input.  Of course, your suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to contact me any time me via Or e-mail Jan Stump, our new Director of Advancement, Membership and Partnerships at

Our goal is to create a membership model that gives you much more than what you have received in the past. Our website, for instance, is being overhauled to create a content-rich web environment that will link you with the people and resources that YOU need and want. At the same time, we are also exploring ways to “right-size” our membership dues prices for various levels of CEP participation. Additional partnership models also will be the subject of a separate panel discussion Nov. 3rd at our Forum in Washington.

Lastly, since CEP resides in our nation’s capital, we are also taking on a broader advocacy role with the U.S. Dept. of Education, the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives as a champion of all character education initiatives, including SEL, PBIS, “Pro-Social Learning” and “Conditions for Learning” efforts nationwide.  In fact, CEP is now on the White House list of invitees for character education-related events.  We attended two gatherings there last semester and over the summer.

So, as you can tell, CEP is going on the offensive in 2013. With great anticipation, we are launching an ambitious plan to extend our reach well beyond the classroom and into every living room, aiming to fulfill our founder’s vision of a more just and caring world. Indeed, Sandy McDonnell knew that it would take young people of character to lead us to that higher plane when he started CEP in 1993. Today, we look forward to working with all of you to help make his dream an achievable reality.