Skip Sub Menu

Lowell Ernst
Character Advocate Award

Lowell was nominated by both Amy Fuller-Belding and Jodi Bokhoven for the Character Advocate Award. As nominator Jodi Bokhoven says, “Lowell is someone who would stand tall for the issues he feels are important to him. He is a loyal employee of the Pella Community School and a loyal friend. He stands up for his beliefs and the things that are important to him everyday. His enthusiasm for CHARACTER COUNTS! is never-ending.”

Lowell is a member of the Pella Rotary, sits on the Families First Steering Committee, Central College President’s Advisory Committee and Teachers’ Academy, coaches his daughter’s athletic teams, and began the CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative in Pella. Amy Fuller-Belding says, “His efforts and willingness to take a leadership role display both in his passion and courage to continue. Limited human and financial resources could have more than once caused a group to fade, but Lowell continues to recruit and work on ideas and trainings until they come to fruition.”


Ric Powell
Educator of Character

Ric Powell is a Special Education teacher and girls basketball coach at Saydel High School. Ric was nominated for the award by Assistant Principal Brian Phillips, and Principal Tracy Hook. Nominator Brian Phillips says, “He has built a positive rapport with all of his students and they highly respect him.”

Ric believes that every student should have a teacher advocating for them. Tracy Hook says, “Ric Powell’s students feel special in his classroom. He deals with some very severe learning disabilities, but his students see him as a personal advocate. His classroom is a place where they can feel good about themselves.” This attitude has also shown results on the court. In his three years as head coach, the team’s morale is higher, and student attendance at basketball games is on the rise. Ric has served as a role model for CHARACTER COUNTS! throughout the school.


Roland-Story Elementary School
School of Character

Roland-Story Elementary School was nominated for the CHARACTER COUNTS! Elementary School Award by guidance counselor Kathy Gabri-elson.  As Kathy says, “CHARACTER COUNTS! is part of our everyday language.  We now have a system that is shown in our school environment and our recess behaviors.  We love our CHARAC-TER COUNTS! work.  It gives us joy and inspiration.”  In addition, Roland Story uses conflict managers, whom help out at recess daily.  By rotating all third and fourth graders through the conflict managers pro-gram, every student feels involved.    

Roland-Story also promotes CHARACTER COUNTS! by playing short Six Pillar commercials over the intercom every Friday morning. The stu-dents sing songs, read poems, do skits, or read plays that focus the Pillar of the day.


Webster City Middle School
CC! Middle School

Webster City Middle School (WCMS) began using CHARACTER COUNTS! six years ago. The many giraffes symbolizing “CHARACTER COUNTS! — Stick Your Neck Out To Help Others” welcome you
into the building and into the classrooms. There are many ways that that this theme and the common language of CHARACTER COUNTS! have been brought alive with the students, staff, parents, and community members working together. Students are taught what each Pillar means, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what is doesn’t look like, what are the consequences for not following the Pillars, and are then acknowledged through a variety of ways when the Pillars are followed.

Principal Becky Hacker-Kluver says, “Statistics have shown that there are fewer referrals to the office and a decrease in problem behaviors throughout the school. The students have taken more ownership of positive school climate with the focus being on positive behaviors rather than on punitive consequences.”


Algona High School Silver Cord Service Organization
School Organization of Character

Nominated by teacher Mary Kae Hanson, the Algona High Silver Cord Service Organization has con-tributed to the community in many ways.  The program has provided students with a positive, service oriented extra-curricular activity that benefits the community.  As Mary Kae says, “It has been very re-warding to observe the growth in service learning involvement by Algona High School students.  More and more AHS students are having the courage to move beyond their adolescent focus and are able to see the needs in the community and beyond.”    Through the Silver Cord Service Organization, students have focused on many worthwhile causes.  The current senior class has accumulated 3,500 hours of service activities throughout their four years.  Students have col-lected over 38,000 aluminum cans and rallied for donations that led to over $2,500 in relief money for hurricane Katrina victims.  Building char-acter is a primary goal of the Silver Cord Organization.


Dr. Greg Robinson
School Administrator of Character

Dr. Greg Robinson is Superintendent of the Urbandale School District.  He was nominated for School Administra-tor of Character by Bill Handsaker.  Greg is known for his fair and skilled decision making.  As school board member Jerry Tormey says, “Greg utilizes many resources to evalu-ate a serious problem and provides solutions or adds direc-tion.  He is very responsible in how he exercises his judg-ment, realizing the possible impact to students, parents, educators and the community.”  Nominator Bill Handsaker says, “He stands up for the choices made at Urbandale, whether made by him or other individuals.  If he says some-thing is going to be accomplished at the school, then it never fails that it will get done.  He thought CHARACTER COUNTS! was a great pro-gram, and wanted his staff and students to embody the Pillars.”


New Hampton

The community of New Hampton, Iowa has taken the Six Pillars of Character to heart. New Hampton was nominated for the Community of Character Award by citizen Linda Kennedy. With a CHARACTER COUNTS! Task Force of nearly 50 members, New Hampton is making a strong effort to educate the youth in the community to be citizens of good character. Nominator Linda Kennedy says, “Our families enjoy the support of the community in teaching the Six Pillars.” City employees, ranging from policemen to lifeguards, are trained in CHARACTER COUNTS!, and are taught how to resolve conflicts by using key elements of the Six Pillars.

Participation in CHARACTER COUNTS! Week has also been a huge success. With the involvement of adults, parents, and students, the community pulls together and focuses on character during the third week in October. Many businesses also participate by hanging 65 large banners displaying the Six Pillars of Character throughout the community. New Hampton is also in the process of raising funds for a CHARACTER COUNTS! pocket park which will feature six rest areas, one representing each of the Six Pillars of Character.


Bankers Trust
Business of Character

The Bankers Trust Company was nominated by Terry Rich, Chief Executive Officer of Blank Park Zoo. In the last year, Bankers Trust has provided
financial support to more than 140 organizations in the Greater Des Moines area, and 350 Bankers Trust employees provided more than 7,000 hours of community service. Bankers Trust has recently been recognized with Diversity Awards from both the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Des Moines Human Rights Commission’s Business and Industry. Bankers Trust has shown their dedication to the Six Pillars by conducting business accordingly.

Terry Rich states, “Bankers Trust captures the spirit of involvement and caring of an organization that does more than write checks, they live and celebrate CHARACTER COUNTS!”


Abbey Knous
Citizen of Character

Abbey is a fifth grader at Walnut Hills Elementary, and was nominated by former teacher Megan Madden. Abbey participates in many activities to help her community. Abbey initiated a bake sale with one of her friends and raised $214 to benefit the Animal Rescue League and Blank Children’s Hospital. As a member of student council, she personally purchased winter clothing for a classmate who did not have a jacket or gloves. In addition, Abbey has worked at community health fairs handing out Tobacco Free Iowa materials, and marched in the Too Cool To Smoke parade. A caring individual, Abbey gave her favorite tennis shoes to her ailing grandfather this Christmas because they reminded him of times the two had shared on his farm.

Abbey also helps prepare and serve meals at the Freedom for Youth Center in Des Moines. Megan describes Abbey’s dedication by saying, “Abby includes the friends she’s made at the Freedom Center in her nightly prayers. She knows they’ve had difficult lives and she recognizes the many blessings she’s had, and the gifts she has been given to share with others.”


Jeralyn Westercamp
Citizen of Character

Jeralyn Westercamp is a ninth grader at John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids and was nominated by family friend David Lodge. Jeralyn has logged over 300 hours of volunteer work for various veteran and hospital groups. In support of this cause, she has constructed tray favors, door decorations, bookmarks, May baskets, baked cookies, and donated magazines, books, and household supplies. Jeralyn also co-founded the “Write Start” program where she raises money and school supplies for 36 Head Start students.

As nominator David Lodge says, “Jeralyn has strong family values and I can attest to her overall enthusiasm, integrity and ability. She excels in every challenge and opportunity presented to her.”


Peter Seehusen
Citizen of Character

Peter Seehusen is a senior at Pocahontas High School and was nominated by Elementary School Principal Lynn Moody. For the past eight years Peter has dedicated a great deal of time educating his community about the American flag, respect, and care. This passion for America motivated Peter to create a beautiful power point presentation that honored fallen local hero, Private Gregory Tull.

A dedicated employee at Halderwood Farms, Peter is always on time and is recognized for his courtesy and helpfulness. Peter also recently produced a video designed to promote pride and patriotism in Pocahontas County, and was recently shown to a group of Dutch Dairy farmers who were visiting Iowa. Peter is also known for his honesty. As nominator Lynn Moody says, “Sharing your birthday with Abraham Lincoln isn’t a sure thing to make you honest, but I have heard the term “honest Pete” used among those who know him.”


Uyntha Duncan
Citizen of Character

Uyntha Duncan is a dedicated individual who puts the interests of others before those of her own. As nominator Clark Goltz says, “Uyntha spends her personal and professional life seeking opportunities to help people.” As a volunteer, foundation Chairperson, board member, and director of volunteer programs, Uyntha has worked with nearly 20 volunteer or non profit organizations. Her generosity with both her time and financial resources have been remarkable. Through her generous donations, all six Cedar Falls elementary schools have been trained and introduced to CHARACTER COUNTS! As a result, approximately 2,300 students have been trained in the Six Pillars of Character.

Uyntha is known for her ability to lead groups of any size. She is one of the first to volunteer for school events, and when she says she will get something done, one can rest assured it will be done well and swiftly. Uyntha is also known for being a caring person. During the school year she opens up her house to selected college students at no expense so that they can afford their life-long dream of attending college.

Iowa High School Athletic Association
Pursuing Victory With Honor

The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) focuses on the Six Pillars of Character in every aspect of their organization.  Officially becoming involved in CHARACTER COUNTS! in 1997, the IHSAA focuses on the Six Pillars when speaking to groups about educational athletics, and are avid supporters of the Pursuing Victory With Honor (PVWH) initiative.  IHSAA Assistant Executive Director Alan Beste says, “The PVWH initiative further enhances our belief that interscholastic athletics are educational first and foremost.”   The IHSAA began awarding the  CHARACTER COUNTS! Coach of the Year Award in 2006 to honor a high school coach that best demonstrates good character.  The Association also actively participates on the Institute for Character Development’s Athletics Advisory Committee.  The organization also displayed the Pursuing Victory With Honor logo on the basketball court during the state high school basketball tournament.


Pella Rolscreen Foundation
Partner of the Year

The Pella Rolscreen Foundation celebrated their 50th anniversary by becoming an avid supporter and  advocate of CHARACTER COUNTS!.  Corporate Communications and Foundation Director Mary Van Zante says, “CHARACTER COUNTS! fits nicely with the culture of the company and complements our Total Competitiveness System that’s based on some foundational  values that include respect for every individual and total integrity in every-thing we do.”    The Pella Rolscreen Foundation has funded trainings for schools in Shenandoah, Roland-Story, Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, and Clear Lake.  Team members at the Rolscreen Foundation are trained in CHARACTER COUNTS! business methods, which provides a framework for emphasizing what is expected of every team member.  Mary  says, “People take pride in working for a company that supports their schools and  communities and promotes good character internally and externally.”


Joe D. Batten
Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award

Character Counts In Iowa recognizes the lifetime achievements of Mr. Joe Batten by awarding him the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award, the Institute’s highest award for a lifetime commitment to civility and character development.  Joe was presented with the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award at a ceremony at his home in January, 2006.  Joe passed away on February 20, 2006.  Joe Batten was an author, motivational speaker, management consultant, sales trainer, coach and mentor; and has spoken to over 80% of the For-tune 500 companies, as well as hundreds of young, start-up companies, and many major associations.  Mr. Batten also coined the U.S. Depart-ment of Defense the phrase “Be All You Can Be.”  Mr. Batten was the author of 19 books, 46 training films/videos, and scores of audios; including “The Greatest Secret”, which has been heard around the world, and his book Tough-Minded Management was voted Book of the Year by the American Management Association.   Mr. Batten also influenced the lives of people across the globe.  Joe’s phrase, “I will be my brother’s brother unless he cannot keep himself” was the focus of the campaign to end Apartheid in South Africa, an  accomplishment for which he was knighted in 1969.   Joe’s mission in life was to enrich the lives of others through the richness of his own, a goal which he achieved ten-fold.  A loving father, husband, and grandfather, Joe truly personified each of the Six Pillars of Character.  Mr. Batten served on the Institute for Character Development’s Board of Directors from 1997-2006.

August 21, 2020
August 20, 2020
August 18, 2020