MISSION: A high level of knowledge does not guarantee a high quality of character, so area nonprofit CHARACTERplus works to combine the two into an enhanced education experience. By providing schools with the tools to grow personal character throughout the school, CHARACTERplus helps educators integrate a character education curriculum focused on traits each school finds the most important. 

HISTORY: CHARACTERplus, a resource of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis, was founded in 1988 and was originally titled the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).”  Sanford (Sandy) McDonnell spearheaded the efforts, initially through seven area school districts. In 1992 and 1997, PREP received U.S. Department of Education grants to help promote character development in the classroom, and has received continuous state funding since 2001. Presently, CHARACTERplus, which was renamed from PREP in 2000, can be found in some 645 schools across Missouri, and in parts of Illinois and Kansas.

COMMUNITY IMPACT: “CHARACTERplus helps students succeed by encouraging educators to teach character—and to teach it throughout every class to every student and in every aspect of the school,” explains executive director Diane Kline of the organization, which currently impacts more than 330,000 students. “These educators instill and integrate character throughout everything. When they’re teaching a history lesson, they’ll talk about the character of the people they’re studying.”

Recently, 29 schools across the country were named National Schools of Character. Of those, Kline says nine are Missouri CHARACTERplus institutions. “We are known nationally as a leader in character education.”

Kline explains that the positive effects of character building can be seen every day in schools. She recalls an instance when a student caught two teachers gossiping in the hallway about another employee. “The student went up to those teachers and said, At our school, we respect each other and don’t gossip,” Kline says.



Celebrate CHARACTERplus’ silver anniversary with master of ceremonies KMOV’s Steve Savard at this dessert reception.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To get involved with CHARACTERplus or to find out more, call 692-1276 or visit characterplus.org.


Randy McDonnell's father started the organization in 1988 and remained involved until his death in 2012. “My father had emphasized character development at McDonnell Douglas, and I realized how important it was—even back then, my father understood the strength of any nation is proportionate to the character of its people,” he says. 

McDonnell, the president and owner of Advanced Aerospace Technologies, serves as executive advisory board chairman for CHARACTERplus. He relates character education to the foundation of a home, explaining that few would buy a house without a foundation, yet students often don’t look for character education at their institutions.

Through this program, McDonnell notes traits such as perseverance and completing tasks correctly the first time as key lessons taught through CHARACTERplus programs. “We all make decisions on a daily basis that affect others,” he says. “When people make decisions that maximize the benefits to all those affected, we are lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down. Through better character, we can have better schools, government and industry.”

McDonnell attended Princeton University, followed by Washington University, after graduating from St. Louis Country Day School. In addition to CHARACTERplus, McDonnell serves on the boards of Character.org, the Greater St. Louis Area Council of Boy Scouts, Fair St. Louis and the Downtown St. Louis Chamber of Commerce. He is also a proud blood donor for the American Red Cross.

More Charities & Non-Profits articles.