Students from St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, stand in front of the Character Word of the Week display earlier this year and before schools were closed over COVID-19. The entire student body and faculty were happy to learn in May that their school has since been named a 2020 National School of Character. Front row, Vincenzo Caruso, Tyler Wiessel, Leo Feuer, Sydney Connor and Bianca Farro. Back row, Mark Giacona, Katelyn Hanlon, Ava Biemuller and Nathan Galinski.  Courtesy photo
Students from St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, stand in front of the Character Word of the Week display earlier this year and before schools were closed over COVID-19. The entire student body and faculty were happy to learn in May that their school has since been named a 2020 National School of Character. Front row, Vincenzo Caruso, Tyler Wiessel, Leo Feuer, Sydney Connor and Bianca Farro. Back row, Mark Giacona, Katelyn Hanlon, Ava Biemuller and Nathan Galinski. Courtesy photo
St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, has been named a 2020 National School of Character, making it the first school in the Diocese of Trenton to earn the distinction.

The honor was awarded by Character.org, a national advocate for character education that certifies schools and districts that display a dedicated focus on character development in schools, families, sports teams and the workplace. St. Leo the Great School was one of 84 schools from throughout the country to earn the title.

“I am incredibly proud and honored to be part of a community that is committed to character education that positively impacts its students to be ethical and compassionate citizens,” said Cornelius Begley, St. Leo the Great School principal. “At St. Leo’s, we believe in the importance of character development and are committed to the continued spiritual, academic and personal growth of our students. Now, more than ever, it is our responsibility as educators to provide meaningful and impactful character education to our students.”

To earn National School of Character status, Dr. Arthur Schwartz, Character.org president, said schools must demonstrate commitment to its “Eleven Principles of Effective Character.”

The principles encourage school communities to promote core values; define character to include thinking, feeling and doing; use a comprehensive approach; create a caring community; provide students with opportunities for moral action; offer a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum; foster students’ self-motivation; unite staff through collaborative learning; foster shared leadership; engage families and community members as partners, and assess the culture and climate of the school.

In submitting their applications, schools are asked to supply evidence on how they meet each of the 11 principles in the form of test scores, behavioral statistics, school climate surveys, web links and videos.

“Each of these schools has put in place a comprehensive approach to help their students understand, care about and consistently practice the core values that will enable them to flourish in school, relationships, in the workplace and as citizens,” Schwartz said. 

The National School of Character designation comes a few months after the school and St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, were designated as State Schools of Character for 2020 by Character.org. They were among 81 schools and seven districts nationwide to be given the honor.

At the time, Tracey Kobrin, St. Peter School principal, expressed her pride in leading “this strong and vibrant community.”

“Our students make us proud every day. This designation is such an honor for all of us,” she said.