YORKTOWN, N.Y. - The Yorktown Central School District has been selected as a New York State School District of Character for 2016.

This prestigious award recognizes the District’s ongoing emphasis on and commitment to character education, which is reflected in its mission statement, core beliefs and practices. Yorktown CSD is the only district in New York State to receive this designation, said the reviewing agency, since the initiation of the award in early 2000. As well, this is the first time a Westchester County school district has been so honored.

Superintendent Dr. Ralph Napolitano said: “This recognition is an appreciated affirmation of our district’s strong commitment to character development for all students in the Yorktown Schools. From our youngest learners in the primary grades to our senior high school students, all understand, appreciate and value the importance of being respectful, responsible and safe.”

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Napolitano added that he believes that if one has character one lacks for nothing.

Character education means helping students learn to be better community members and more caring citizens who want to positively contribute to their school, their community and their world. Staff in the Yorktown schools work to accomplish this in classrooms, on the playing fields, on the stage and in the community. Teachers at all levels use mentor books in instruction to engage students in real problems that lead to thoughtful reflection and require important actions.

The District’s motto “Come to Learn, Leave to Lead and Serve” is alive in all the schools.

Dr. Philip Fusco, coordinator of N.Y. State School of Character, which is sponsored through a partnership with The Academy for Character Education at The Sage Colleges in Troy, said that in the Yorktown schools: “There is a strong emphasis on character education. The district leaders set the tone, but in Yorktown it is embedded in the culture with attention to ongoing improvements.”

During the selection process, Fusco explained, that the committee looked at the District’s academics, leadership and community connections to determine “whether students, families and staff feel safe, respected and valued.”

Last year, the Mildred E. Strang Middle School was one of five schools in the state, and the only one in Westchester County, to be named a 2015 National School of Character.

The district will be honored in April at a banquet by the Academy for Character Education in Troy and will be considered for review as a National School District of Character.

Barbara Nackman is the media manager at Yorktown Central School District.