Get into spirit of ethics

Program uses one word a month to teach principles for a better society.

May 19, 2010|By Nicole Charky

Glendale Unified School District students know the word of the month for May is courtesy, but they might not know the man or story behind it.

Donald Empey is a founder and president of the Character and Ethics Project, an organization created by the school district and community leaders to promote character building and ethics at school, sports, home, business and government through education and recognition.

In 1999, Empey and a group of 10 community leaders from the school district and Chamber of Commerce began the project. Empey was deputy superintendent of the school district and helped the group determine what they could offer local residents.


“It was just a group of people, leaders in the community, asking ‘What can we do to make character and ethics important?’” he said.

Members decided to create a list of 12 principles of character. This became the Word of the Month program, and each month teachers emphasize a word that signifies good character.

In the past several years, Empey and his fellow board members developed programs including the ACE Awards, Community Awards, Leadership Conference and Fire House Alternative to Suspension.

Pilot program Athletes with Character and Ethics (ACE) Awards will be Tuesday at the Alex Theatre and features local athletes who will be honored for their sportsmanship. The Community Awards on May 27 will recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that have character and ethics in mind.

The leadership conference for Glendale Unified high school students is a 25-year-old event Empey has worked with and now has former conference attendees returning as leaders. The half-day event brings together 150 local high school students and 100 local leaders.

Fire House ATS replaces suspension for high school students and places a Glendale Fire Department member in the classroom one Saturday each month to teach students about character and ethics. Glendale Fire Department initiated the program so students wouldn’t miss vital classroom time.

In June, the Character and Ethics Project celebrated its 10th anniversary and Empey believes the project is more important now than ever for community members.

“We have recently gone through one of the most difficult times of the economy in our country and a lot of it was brought on by unethical conduct in greed,” he said. “It’s something that’s constantly around us.”

The community leader wants to keep the project widespread.

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