Bonner Center wins Golden Ruler Award for character education

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Bonner Center wins Golden Ruler Award for character education

The Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship at California State University, Fresno will receive the Golden Ruler Award at a major international character education conference today in San Diego.

Dr. Jacques Benninga, the center’s executive director, will be presented the award at 11 a.m. as part of the Second Annual International Conference on Character Education from June 25 to June 27 at the University of San Diego.

The program will be honored for developing a highly regarded center to support public schools and train teachers in character education, said Mary Williams, professor and a co-founder of the International Center for Character Education at USD.

“Good character education is an important part of replacing the violence and negativity too common among today’s youth with values of self-respect, honesty and civic participation,” Williams said.

“Central California has benefited enormously from having access to the resources provided by the Bonner Center,” she added, praising Benninga and his staff. Benninga is also chair of the Fresno State Department of Literacy and Early Education.

The Golden Ruler Award — supported by a Templeton Foundation grant and based on the “treat others as you would want them to treat you” Golden Rule — honors administrators, teachers, schools and other organizations for exemplary leadership efforts in promoting character education, Williams said.

The award consists of a plaque, $500 for the center, the “Laws of Life” Book from the Templeton Foundation and a copy of “Educating Hearts and Minds” from Corwin Press.

Dr. Paul Shaker, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, said Fresno State is gratified for this high honor in the education community.

“The varied, school-oriented work done by the Bonner Center is contributing to our region in an area of paramount importance,” Shaker said. “The development of character is fundamental to students as potential citizens, family members and economic contributors to society. Our education community is fortunate to have philanthropic support to pursue this worthy cause.”

The center was founded in 1997 through a $51,000 gift from the Bonner Family Foundation to influence and enhance character education programs throughout Central California.

Providing a central clearinghouse for information on curriculum and resources, the center issues grants for local public schools and educators; holds forums with nationally recognized speakers; and recognizes outstanding programs and students in the area of character education and community service.

The center also works with university faculty in the school of education to infuse character education into its programs of teacher education.

Among the measures Benninga and his staff have implemented to help local schools is the Values and Character Recognition Program, which was begun 10 years ago to publicly honors schools, their administration, faculty and staff who effectively communicate to students and parents that moral and character education are integral to the school program.

In April, nine Central Valley elementary schools were honored at the annual Conference on Character and Civic Education sponsored by Dean Shaker for the university’s student teachers. The conference, which is another project of the center, reinforces to the college seniors and graduate students their responsibility in teaching moral/character education.

“School programs which include a wide scope of student activities and encourage broad participation can best provide essential opportunities for students to learn to be considerate and helpful to others, to respect the rights and opinions of others and to respect the institutions of American society,” said Benninga. “Such activities provide a relevant context for school personnel to work with students in nurturing virtues, social awareness and prosocial conduct.”

The center also sponsors the Youth Citizenship Award Program, in conjunction with Congressmen Cal Dooley (D-20/Hanford) and George Radanovich (R-19/Fresno) that recognizes outstanding community service projects by students in grades 6 to 12.