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News & Events

Buffalo Public School District’s Character Development Initiative Underway

Buffalo, NY, January 30, 2017 – A novel character development initiative by CITRS, in partnership with Character Counts, is underway at a select group in the Buffalo Public School District. The initiative consists of a total 22 schools, and reaches approximately 12,000 underprivileged students, ranging from Pre-K to high school.

Initial assessments, professional development and training have commenced. A state of the art customized version of the CHARACTER COUNTS! 5.0 student development initiative is being implemented. The long-term goal is to aid in the development of students for educational advancement, success in the workplace and becoming ethical, compassionate citizens. The short term goals are to create a safe, secure environment and improved school climate within each school and improve students’ academic performance, behavior, character traits, social emotional learning and interpersonal skills. It uses the latest proven tools to achieve long-lasting durability and economies of scale to reduce costs and improve efficiency, while having a broad reach.

The 3 year initiative is supported locally by three Mentors/Coaches in Buffalo, three members of the CITRS staff located in Philadelphia, and three members of the CHARACTER COUNTS! national staff.

Thanks to the support, collaboration, vision and leadership of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Superintendent Kriner Cash, who recognize the importance of this initiative, something revolutionary is now taking place in Buffalo.



Panelists (left to right) Duncan McCrann, Gary Smit, Clay Hamlin and William Cascarina

Washington D.C. October 15, 2016 – Character.org Board Member, Clay Hamlin, moderated a panel on Character and the Emerging Catholic School Renaissance: Why Secular Character Development Frameworks are Essential in Faith Based Education at the annual Character.org forum.  The panel highlighted the groundbreaking development in U.S. education reform, where failing urban Catholic K-12 schools are partnering with entrepreneurs and donors.  They are introducing new innovative models to educate inner-city children as a much less expensive alternative to dysfunctional failing government-run schools. The panel of leading Catholic school educators, character development experts and philanthropists discussed these developments and how efficient, effective character development programs are augmenting Catholic school’s faith inspired education for exceptional results and creating a culture of character and virtue.
More information on the panelists:
Duncan McCrann, Founder and CEO of the Catholic School Renaissance Institute, is the Chief Administrative Officer of Educational Enterprises, Inc., the operator of the EAGLE College Prep Schools and the HOPE Christian Schools. He is the former President and COO of KIPP Houston and the former Headmaster of the Hyde School in Woodstock, CT. He is a graduate of Harvard College and a founding contributor of the School for Real Estate at MIT.
Gary Smit is a former superintendent and now Lead Trainer and the Dean of Faculty for Character Counts. He develops curriculum, conducts workshops, teacher and coach in-service programs and keynote addresses for educators across the United States. In addition, Smit has been directly involved with international character development initiatives in Singapore, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Ecuador, Nigeria, Brazil and Colombia. Gary is the author of the book, Instilling Touchstones of Character.
William (Bill) Cascarina is the Principal at Saint Frances Cabrini Regional Catholic School, part of the Independence Mission School Organization. He is a former Middle School and High School Dean of Students, 4th grade math teacher and football and basketball coach.

To learn more about the Catholic School Renaissance, click here.


Villanova University President and Athletic Director receiving Character Award: (left to right) Clay Hamlin – CEO of CITRS, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A. – President of Villanova University, Mark Jackson – Athletic Director
Villanova University Athletic Department and CITRS: (left to right) back row: Fr. Rob Hagan, O.S.A. – Associate Athletics Director & Chaplain, Tanoh Kpassagnon – Senior Defensive Lineman, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A. – President of Villanova University, Reggie Paris – Tri-captain Football Team ’15; front row: Jeanne Craft – CIO of CITRS, Dean Kenefick – Associate Athletics Director, Mark Jackson – Athletic Director, Allison L. Venella – Director of Student-Athlete Development.

Philadelphia Country Club, Gladwyne, PA, October 3rd, 2016 – CITRS held its Annual Character Golf Outing & Dinner to help raise awareness for the Character Education movement throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, while raising necessary funds to both sustain and grow multiple regional and national character initiatives.

CITRS presented the Pennsylvania Character Consortium’s 2016 Character Achievement Award to the Villanova University’s Athletic Department. Villanova’s Athletic Department was recognized for their outstanding work in developing the moral and performance character of its coaches, administrator and student-athletes, while holding itself to the highest standards of organizational integrity, excellence, service, sportsmanship and teamwork.

It was both a wonderful day of golf and an informational, celebratory evening.  We are grateful to our sponsors and donors in making the event a great success as well as continuing the CITRS mission. 100% of the donations raised will be used to develop and implement character development programs to benefit underprivileged youth in schools and after-school programs. If you would like to lend your support, but have not had the chance, please visit here.

We thank all our supporters, including our sponsors, for their generosity in making this event a great success.



St Cyril and CITRS at Philadelphia Freedoms WTT.IMG_9719

The Pavilion at Villanova University, August 12, 2016 – CITRS recognized St. Cyril of Alexandria, an Independence Mission School, located in East Lansdowne, at the Philadelphia Freedoms Tennis Event. Students and families enjoyed the tennis and had photo opportunities with Billie Jean King, American former World No. 1 professional tennis player and co-founder of Mylan World Team Tennis. This video was shared which highlights the students and school of character!

St. Cyril is led by long-time principal, Sister Barbara Montague, who adopted the Character Counts program this past school year and did an outstanding job!  Once again, we congratulate the teachers, students and families of St. Cyril for showing all of us that, indeed, Character Counts!


Queens New York, August 10, 2016 – CITRS lead consultants Jeanne Craft and Brendan Petersen facilitated a workshop with New York Junior Tennis and Learning’s (www.nyjtl.org) top management team to kick off their character certification initiative as the first OST program to be considered for this prestigious national award. Senior Director of Education and Program Directors were engaged as they contributed to identifying and discussing key character development initiatives within their organization.

Character.org, a nonprofit organization that serves as the world’s leading spokesman for character education and development for young people, (www.character.org) recently announced this new initiative to accredit out of school time (OST) organizations. Emanating from the National Schools of Character accreditation process and Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education (developed over 15 years by a blue ribbon panel of experts in character development), CITRS consulted with Character.org in the development of this certification program that will focus solely on OST organizations. Click here to learn more about OST organizations and how they offer ideal opportunities for character development and education.

Ongoing Initiative – CITRS and Character Counts have partnered to help the University of Pennsylvania’s Athletic Department take an in-depth look at its mission and overall approach to Character Development. Working closely with Penn Athletics, CITRS/CC designed and implemented a comprehensive survey that identified many character-related strengths within the Department as well as opportunities for strategic growth – all with an eye on helping Penn Athletics be an outstanding example of character at the university and intercollegiate level.

Ongoing Initiative – CITRS has taken the lead in setting up the Character Consortium of Pennsylvania. Similar to the national work of Character.org in Washington, DC, the PA Consortium is comprised of leading educators and advocates for Character Education here in the Commonwealth. The Character Consortium is working hard to ensure that Pennsylvania is a national leader when it comes to comprehensive Social, Emotional, Character Development Standards and finding innovative ways to embed a culture and climate of character within K-12 schools.


Great things are happening at the Independence Mission Schools in Philadelphia and character education is one of them! CITRS has been working with 15 schools to weave Character Counts! into their programs and activities. (For more details on this initiative, click here)

During Catholic Schools week in February 2016 a formal launch of the program was held and each school shared their own unique way of demonstrating how they embrace and teach character to create a positive school culture and climate. The events that took place were dynamic and impactful and included many constituents, such as administration, teachers, students, parents and community. Click CITRS CC! Launch Event Highlights to read a summary report for each of the schools’ events. Click here to see a video depicting highlights of the Character Counts! Launch.

Inaugural CITRS Fundraiser Dinner and Golf Outing

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 – The Inaugural CITRS Fundraiser Dinner and Golf Outing was a great success and raised significant funds for the Independence Mission Schools’ character initiative.   The day’s event was kicked off by a golf tournament on the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon course. Cocktails, dinner and the evening program were held on the covered outdoor patio overlooking the 18th green.  The evening program, attended by 120 supporters, celebrated the success of the Independence Mission Schools, as well as highlighting their current partnership with CITRS and Character Counts.  The program honoree was Brian McElwee, founder and Chairman of the Independence Mission Schools, who can be best described as a true entrepreneurial educator and visionary.

“Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

We thank all our supporters, including our sponsors, for their generosity in making this event a great success.


rizk shidler




Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP

Jones Lang LaSalle– Philadelphia, PA

Deborah and Richard Previdi


511 Group Inc

The Chase Law Group


CBRE – Philadelphia, PA

Colliers International

Corporate Office Properties Trust

Cushman & Wakefield – Harrisburg, PA

Cushman & Wakefield – Tampa, FL

D2 Architects

DiLucia Family

Robert Fahey & John McConnell

Joe and Francine Haulenbeek

Jones Lang LaSalle – Chicago, IL

Jones Lang LaSalle- Nashville, TN

Angela and Joe Virdone

Wells Fargo

CWH Speech 10-13-15

Game Set Match: Character Through Sport

NAA CITRS NYJTL Presentation 3.10.15
CITRS team members, Jeanne Craft and Brendan Petersen partnered with Jessica Bailey, Senior Director of Education and DJ Rouzeau, Director of After School Programming at New York Junior Tennis and Learning, to facilitate their innovative and dynamic character learning session at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Washington, D.C. March 10, 2015. http://naaweb.org/convention

Best practices, a virtues matrix with a bi-lingual application, a logic model for effective organizational partnering, and strategies for reaching young people were shared with administrators and professionals from around the country. Participants were engaged in an experiential ‘on-court’ simulation of character learning. This highly interactive and ‘hands-on’ activity stimulated interesting and valuable dialogue among attendees.

In addition, Craft and Petersen participated in a special session with other invited diverse leadership members to explore the crucial intersection of social and emotional learning and afterschool. They introduced to conference organizers and attendees the concept of Comprehensive Character Education; specifically highlighting that Social Emotional Learning integrated with Character Education is key to transforming programs into powerful learning initiatives. Successful infusion of Social Emotional within Character Development (SECD) results in positive behaviors, increased academic success and caring communities.

Afterschool programs often enjoy strong competitive advantages in helping youth build these important life competencies and habits. Without the mandates of standardized testing and curriculum restrictions placed on schools, afterschool programs are free to explore SECD topics in more depth. In fact, many education experts argue that afterschool programs are the ideal forum for SECD learning, as they can focus on the relational sides of helping young people develop, whether in the context of sports, arts, and other enrichment activities. SECD is anchored in relationships that build healthy attachment, integrity, trust, and interpersonal skills.

For more information please contact Brendan Petersen, bpetersen@citrs.org or 610-995-1090.


“Journey to the Heart: A Path to a Significant Life”

Gene Miller facilitated a Character-Centered Training for Student Leaders and Educators on January 16, 2015. The workshop focused on the principles and strategies that are the foundation for successful implementation of a comprehensive character program. The Character Council of Western New York is a region dedicated to creating a culture of character within all of their communities…truly making character a matter of the heart. http://charactercouncilwny.org/events/

For more information please contact Brendan Petersen, bpetersen@citrs.org or 610-995-1090.

“Game, Point, Match: Engaging High-Need Urban Youth for Outstanding Character through Sport”

CITRS Presents at Character.org’s 2014 National Forum on Character Education in Washington, D.C. “Game, Point, Match: Engaging High-Need Urban Youth for Outstanding Character through Sport”

CITRS team members, Jeanne Craft, David Di Lucia and Brendan Petersen partnered with Jessica Bailey, Senior Director of Education at New York Junior Tennis and Learning, to facilitate an innovative and interactive character session on October 31, 2014.

CITRS and NYJTL engaged participants as they learned about and experienced the unique model that they designed for New York City’s students. The interactive and robust program impacting K-12 youth is revolutionizing coaching pedagogy in New York City’s most challenging neighborhoods. Effective strategies and best practices for integrating sports and character education were shared. Then participants were involved in a highly interactive and fun ‘on-court-simulated’ experience that emphasized the learning of respect, integrity and ethical decision-making. While this model was customized using tennis for NYJTL, it is universal and can be readily adapted for embedding and developing character through any sport.

NYJTL Honors CITRS Co-Founder Clay Hamlin

NEW YORK – The 27th Annual NYJTL (NY Junior Tennis & Learning) Luncheon honored tennis icon Billie Jean King and Clay Hamlin, corporate citizen, CITRS founder and champion for character development. NYJTL President and CEO Deborah Antoine announced that the CITRS curriculum was introduced in September in 20 New York City schools where NYJTL operates after school education programs. NYJTL is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to tennis and learning in the United States, offering comprehensive school and community programs throughout New York City and reaching 100,000 children each year.

The luncheon featured a special video on Hamlin (see Clay Hamlin/NYJTL video here). With 500 plus people attending, the sold-out luncheon included Master of Ceremonies, Maurice DuBois (award winning journalist and co-anchor of CBS-2 News); Honorary Chairs David Dinkins, Jeanne Moutoussamay-Ashe, and Jon Vegosen; Sotheby’s Auctioneer Jamie Ritchie; and Commissioner Jeanne Mullgrav (NYC Department of Youth and Community Development).

Hamlin joined the ranks of past “Leadership Award Recipients” that include Hon. David N. Dinkins, Arthur Ashe, Jim Courier, Lewis “Skip” Hartman, and John McEnroe.