Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992

GLVC, CharacterPlus Partner to Empower More Than 500 GLVC Character Ambassadors

INDIANAPOLIS – The Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) announced Thursday a partnership with CharacterPlus – one of the longest-running, most successful community-wide character education initiatives in the country – to implement character and leadership development for GLVC student-athletes at all 15 member institutions beginning this fall.

A total of 536 student-athletes, representing two individuals from each of the league’s 268 teams, will enter the CharacterPlus athLEADership Academy in Character Education (AACE) and be taught both awareness and intentionality from the Academy’s lead scholars during one campus visit in the fall and spring, as well as a virtual session during the winter. These GLVC Character Ambassadors will listen, learn and then be empowered to lead by returning to their respective teams and working with the coaching staff to implement team-building exercises.

The two GLVC Character Ambassadors from each sport on each campus will be chosen internally by the school’s athletic department administrators.

“We are quite pleased to partner with CharacterPlus and embrace the GLVC mission to promote opportunities for student-athlete character and leadership development,” said GLVC Commissioner Jim Naumovich. “The GLVC believes that a balanced Division II student-athlete experience involves comprehensive learning and academic development, high-level athletics competition, and meaningful community engagement. This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes, coaches, and administrators to experience the core values we espouse as a league.”

During these sessions, the GLVC Character Ambassadors will become aware of their own strengths and leadership potential in order to help their team thrive and succeed together, while understanding the power of creating teams where the basic human motivators or what CharacterPlus calls the ABCs – autonomy, belonging, and competence – are alive and well. The primary goal is for the GLVC Character Ambassadors to become model student-athlete leaders who make a positive impact on their teams, universities, and their communities.

Athletic directors and coaches will also be invited to participate in the learning experiences with their GLVC Character Ambassadors. The Ambassadors will also be eligible for student internship opportunities with the CharacterPlus athLEADership Academy, beginning in 2021-22.

“Commissioner Naumovich is asking GLVC student-athletes, coaches, and athletic directors to join him in an intentional focus on character development and CharacterPlus is humbled to help lead this journey,” said CharacterPlus CEO Mike Park. “Social, emotional and character strengths make a meaningful, connected and compassionate life possible. Those lives make this world a better place.”

In addition to the two-hour, on-campus sessions during the fall and spring seasons, CharacterPlus will also provide four 30-minute virtual sessions during the winter term, led by Dr. Marvin W. Berkowitz, who is the inaugural Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Character Education and Co-Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is one of the world’s most oft cited scholars in Character Education and serves as Co-Editor of the Journal of Character Education, as well as, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre housed at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Berkowitz has been lauded for his PRIMED program, a framework that has great application for individual character growth and will also be a focus of the partnership. The approach is one of two Character Education frameworks endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to Dr. Berkowitz’s ties to UMSL, AACE lead facilitators Julie Sperry, Ed.D. and Kristen Pelster, Ed.S. have also worked closely with GLVC member institutions. Dr. Sperry facilitates professional learning for over 300 school administrators across the St. Louis region, enhancing the skill sets of aspiring and experienced leaders. Dr. Sperry has served as adjunct faculty at both UMSL and Lindenwood University. She holds a master’s and specialist degrees in both administration and secondary counseling from UMSL, and an E.D. from Maryville University. Dr. Sperry was a former collegiate volleyball player and later a former Executive Director of CharacterPlus who understands the mission, work, and intentional approach to character development.

Kristen Pelster, Ed.S. is the Director of Programming for CharacterPlus, a Character Education for Emerging Leaders (CEEL) consultant for The Center for Character and Citizenship (CCC) housed at UMSL, and a Board Member for African Visions of Hope (AVOH), where her focus is on Character Education for AVOH schools in Zambia. She has also assisted Park with character programming for the Maryville cross country and track and field programs over the last year. Pelster has served over two decades as an educator and administrator, and has appeared before the Senate in Washington, D.C. to testify on the positive impact “social, emotional, and character development” has on students, regardless of their circumstance.

Spanning a 30 year history, CharacterPlus provides evidenced-based training that creates caring, high-achieving school environments where young people are inspired to make character development a central component to their social, emotional, and academic life. CharacterPlus serves hundreds of diverse schools across the Midwest region and will offer the nation’s first yearlong Teachers Academy in Character Education (TACE), beginning this fall. CharacterPlus provides programming in a variety of disciplines but has been recognized for its GATEWAY2CHANGE program, which is the region’s only high school initiative that engages racially and economically diverse students in intentional peer to peer conversations around race, equity, and institutional bias. CharacterPlus is also a decades long supporter of the Leadership Academy in Character Education (LACE), helping over 800 school leaders develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to create, implement and evaluate programs and processes that make their schools true learning communities in which character education is a vital part of the curriculum and culture.