Hanover Park Regional High School District, New Jersey’s first National District of Character, has been recertified for 2018. This honor bestows the title of National District of Character on the district’s two schools, Hanover Park High School and Whippany Park High School, for the next five years.
Hanover Park Regional was one of five districts in the nation to receive this distinction from character.org and its state affiliates. According to the character.org website: “Through an in-depth and rigorous evaluation process, these schools were found to be exemplary models in character development. Criteria for selection are based on character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education, a framework to assist schools in providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort.”
Hanover Park Regional High School District’s commitment to character education is evident in the halls of both schools. Students have taken a lead role in service learning initiatives, including raising money for various charitable causes, providing community education and outreach, and encouraging camaraderie and friendship among peers.
The award winning Genocide Gallery Walk is just one example of the Hanover Park Regional High School District coming together to contribute to the greater good. The gallery walk, which evolved out of the Genocide Studies curriculum as a service learning capstone of the course, is designed to provide students and community members with a hands-on, authentic genocide learning experience that is creative and powerful. In addition, the freshman seminar course, a required half year class for all first year students in the district, is built around character education.
Whippany Park business teacher Andrea Ritacco comments, “In the early units of the class we focus on the responsibilities that go along with being a member of our school community. As we move into later units, our freshmen are given the opportunity to understand their own personality types, as well as the personality types of others. Understanding themselves and others on an individual level provides the building blocks for discussion and appreciation of diversity in society, as well as teaches tolerance and acceptance. The capstone project for the Freshman seminar course is the design and execution of a service learning project.”
The effects of Hanover Park Regional’s character education efforts are evident. Whippany Park art teacher Chris Wolf comments, “I have been in the district for a long time, way before the character education initiative, and when it began I had my doubts that it would make a discernible difference. However, over the last few years I have seen a definite change in the student body. They are more respectful and considerate of each other. They have taken tremendous initiative and no longer rely on teachers to take the lead in conceiving and implementing service learning projects. The students are now exemplary models of good character.”
Whippany Park High School principal Christopher Kelly echoes these sentiments: “We are extremely proud of the efforts made by our students and staff to embrace character education and service learning. As a principal, I believe that it has created a more caring and empathetic school culture.”