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About Hope Institute

Without good character in its citizens, our country will not succeed with its democratic institutions or free market economy. Nor without such character can our families flourish nor can anyone obtain happiness. Virtually everyone acknowledges that the nation’s most pressing social problems such as crime, school drop outs, poor work ethic, incivility, and broken families have at their core the absence of good character.  Yet all too many of our schools, public and private, have strayed from a traditional focus to help students develop good character as well as to be smart. 

Drayton Nabers and Liz Huntley founded the Hope Institute to address this dilemma. The Hope Institute is a 501(c)(3) institution which partners with Samford University’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership and the Orlean Beeson School of Education to help bring to schools in Alabama the best practices for developing good character in students. Drayton serves as Chairman; Liz is President. The Executive Director is Dr. Jodi Newton. Dr. Newton served for over ten years as Superintendent of the Homewood City school system and then as Associate Dean of Samford’s School of Education, where she continues as faculty. She is admired throughout the state as an administrator, professor of education, and the mentor of hundreds of graduate students. 

The Hope Institute is housed in Samford’s School of Education. The initial groundwork for the Hope Institute began in 2016 in Samford’s Mann Center. Eight K-12 public and private schools participated in a pilot professional development program in character education. 


The Academy

Based on the success of this pilot, the Institute was created and then it founded the Hope Academy. In 2018, the Academy assembled K-12 educational leaders from 19 North and Central Alabama schools for the study of character development through education. The Academy’s curriculum included six day-long workshops in which about 100 participants: learned from national leaders in character education, designed a character development implementation plan for their schools, visited schools with character programs already implemented, and networked with other school leaders. The participants in the Academy’s first year included: 9 Elementary Schools, 7 Middle Schools, 3 High Schools, junior and senior Samford University education majors, and faculty from Samford’s School of Education. 

The workshop presenters included: Drayton Nabers, Director of Samford’s Mann Center; Mrs. Liz Huntley, attorney, author, and nationally renowned child advocate; Dr. Thomas Lickona, professor emeritus, State University of New York; Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, Director for the Center for Character and Citizenship, University of Missouri at St. Louis; and Dr. Amy Johnston, Lecturer, University of Missouri at St. Louis. Presentation topics included: forming an effective leadership team, determining a school’s core values, creating a school touchtone (expressing values in a simple sentence or two), establishing a caring school environment, discussing classroom exercises for character development, and the importance of student and parent engagement. 

Schools must first develop a strong moral environment or culture in which student character is shaped. Toward building a strong moral culture, beween workshops, participants studied books authored by the presenters, reflected on current school practices, created and implemented a strategic school-wide plan for character formation, and received on-site consulting from Hope Institute staff. Dr. Kara Chism, faculty at the School of Education, visited the participating schools approximately thirty times, January through June in 2018

In 2018, the Hope Academy, under the Dr. Newton’s leadership, will again conduct the introductory first year course for up to twenty-five new schools.

Members from the first class (2018) will continue to expand their knowledge and implementation of character development programs by participating in year two activities which will be administered by Dr. Chism and will include a book study, two workshops on Samford’s campus, site visits to other schools, focus groups, and on-site consulting at their respective schools.