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Community of Caring Names University of Utah Its New National Headquarters

Nov. 8, 2004-On Thursday, Nov. 11, Community of Caring, a national K-12, whole school character education program pioneered by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, will announce that it will move its office from its current location in Washington, D.C., to become the National Center for Community of Caring at the University of Utah. The announcement will be made at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., in Washington, D.C. Shriver, founder and honorary chair of Community of Caring, and University of Utah President Michael Young will give remarks and answer questions.

Shriver says the University of Utah was chosen as the new home for Community of Caring for a number of reasons, including the fact that “Utah school districts have been especially supportive of the Community of Caring program,” she says. “I am confident the program will continue to grow and flourish in its new University setting.” Twenty percent of the nearly 1,000 public, private and parochial Community of Caring schools are located in Utah, and earlier this year Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson named Salt Lake City a Community of Caring City.

David J. Sperry, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Utah remarks, “The College of Education is proud to be the future home of the National Center for Community of Caring. The inclusion of Community of Caring into our College is part of a broader strategic effort to expand upon our academic strengths. This center will further differentiate what makes the College of Education at the University of Utah unique by enhancing the education we are able to offer our students and increasing our research and outreach capacity.”

A unique aspect of Community of Caring is its focus on the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the program. Shriver, who also founded Special Olympics and works closely with son Anthony Shriver’s Best Buddies programs, originally established the Community of Caring at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Shriver consulted ethicists, researchers, physicians and teachers to define qualities that strengthen character that would thereby strengthen the nation-caring, respect, responsibility and trust. She then added “family” to the constellation. Given Community of Caring’s emphasis on including students with disabilities, the National Center will be housed in the University’s Department of Special Education with Michael Hardman, a long-time Kennedy Foundation advisor and University Special Education Department chair, serving as the University Center’s coordinator.

Community of Caring has grown to be a K-l2, school-wide and research-based program that aims to enrich every aspect of school life. The five core values, woven into the curriculum and culture, are posted in the halls and classrooms of Community of Caring schools with the goal that these values will be modeled in the school community.

Kristin Fink, who has been the executive director of Community of Caring in Washington, D.C., and who will now serve as director of Community of Caring Programs, says, “Research suggests that incorporating character education has a direct impact on how students perform academically. Students have higher grade point averages and enjoy safer, more inclusive school communities, and respectful school environments. The core values help students to be better and stronger students, citizens, and human beings. Today’s educators realize empathy must be taught, practiced and fostered.”