A trio of schools in Tuscaloosa earned national recognition this week when they were named "Schools of Character" by an organization seeking to help grow the leaders of the next generation.

Character.org, which was founded in 1993, gives the honor to only a few dozen institutions each year. Fewer than 70 were chosen in 2022, and just five were selected in Alabama, further highlighting the impressive achievement of the three honorees in Tuscaloosa.

The accolade was awarded to West Lawn Middle School, Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools Elementary and Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools Middle, each of whom received the honor for the first time this year.

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A spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa City Schools system said the three local award winners will all go on to compete for Character.org’s National School of Character honor, which will be announced in May.

“The faculty and staff of Westlawn Middle School give 110% each day to our school and students,” Westlawn Principal Darlene Atkins said in a press release. “We are dedicated and committed to seeing our students soar, because we realize that in doing so, we are helping our school community succeed. This is true validation for the tireless efforts that go into educating the whole child. For others to see it is truly a blessing. While we are thrilled beyond words to receive this designation, we realize that this is only the beginning, and we will continue doing the work necessary in order to ensure that all of our students are successful.”

Preeti Nichani, the principal at TMSE, echoed those sentiments about excellence at her elementary school.

“At our school, our faculty and students' unique backgrounds and interests are celebrated,” Nichani said. “Our teachers foster student collaboration and appreciate new ideas as they build our school's community. We feel that the School of Character 11 Principles Framework has helped shift our focus to character education. While academics are still a driving force, character education has become embedded within the curriculum and prevalent in our school community.”

Constance Pewee-Childs, principal of TMSM, said the educators honored this week are not in it to earn accolades, but to improve lives in the Tuscaloosa area.

“It is a prestigious honor and we are elated to be named a State School of Character,” Pewee-Childs said. “Although we appreciate the recognition, the impact we are making as a school community is more rewarding. The recognition helped to solidify the work we are doing within our school and in the community. It is a nod for us to keep moving forward and making a positive impact."

For updates on how the three schools fare in the national competition in May, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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