There was a time when character development was a more intentional part of our homes, schools, workplaces, and worship centres. In the 1940s, a student could expect to receive a full report on their character development as well as their academic progress. The character development of the young people in the community was shared by all.
In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, this focus on character development took a back seat to many other social movements, ones that were more focused on self-awareness and self-expression. The character focus that existed throughout our communities faded away.
It was in 1992 that North America began to take a turn towards a character education focus again. Various character organizations have been founded in North America with hundreds of schools, cities, and businesses of character. This movement has spread beyond the borders of North America with over 29 international cities of character already established.
In Abbotsford, the movement began in the year 2006 when the then Superintendent, School Board Chair and a Vice Principal attended York Regional District's Character Conference in Toronto, Ontario; a Canadian Community of Character. After a presentation to the Board of Education was enthusiastically embraced and fully supported, the seeds of this movement began to grow in our own community.
In 2009, the school district conducted an Assets Survey of more than 5000 students which confirmed that Abbotsford was in need of a character education initiative. Results showed that Abbotsford students were fairing slightly below continental averages in the development assets and this would require community engagement at all levels to help our students become healthy, successful, contributing members of society. As a result, a character committee was established and began working on the initiative in December, 2009.
A landmark event took place on April 26th, 2011. Spearheaded by members of the character committee, leaders from across the city of Abbotsford met to establish a common language that would guide the character movement. Following 3 hours of work, six keystones or values were agreed upon as being the foundational elements to our city. Following this milestone event, an official Abbotsford Character Council was established including members of the original character committee and representatives from key community stakeholders and organizations.
This exciting chapter began with the belief that when every adult, business, and organization teaches, models, and promotes good character, it will be reflected in our children and youth and in every part of our community.
Over the course of the next year, the Abbotsford Character Council met four times. 'Abbotsford City of Character' was established as a society, a logo was created and officially approved by the council, numerous presentations were made successfully enrolling community organizations as Community Stakeholders in the initiative. Additionally, an interim executive was affirmed including a chair, vice-chair, and 3 members-at-large. This executive group met weekly to give direction to the movement. Abbotsford City of Character also established an online presence including a website and numerous social media connections (Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, & YouTube).
In 2012/2013 four major events were launched: a Youth Forum, City of Heroes Awards Ceremony, Speaker Series hosted by the Mayor and a Leadership Summit on Character. Abbotsford City of Character was also nominated for a Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Award and was the winner of a Promising Practices Award from Character Education Partnership in Washington, DC. This year also marked the launch of a national conference sub-committee with a mandate to establish a national society, Character Canada. A second major sub-committee took flight in the fall of 2014 with the goal of establishing a provincial network of schools: BC Schools of Character.
At the AGM in September 2014, the Character Council approved a name and logo change as well as a new strategic plan. The Board of Directors worked together to develop these additions and changes over a period of 5 months. As a result, 'Character Abbotsford' was launched!
The momentum for the character movement continues to grow in Abbotsford and beyond as citizens and organizations take on the challenge to intentionally practice and promote character daily!