Tus Valores Cuentan: Changing Lives for the Better

El Nuevo Dia featured an inspiring story on the Tus Valores Cuentan (TVC) program this past week. The article includes interviews with several parents, students and teachers whose lives have been changed by the program. “[The program] works very well,” said Carmen Velez, whose three children attend Ruiz Belvis school in La Playa. “It has taught them to respect themselves, to value themselves.”

Jaileen de la Paz, a fourth year student at the Maria Mendoza school in Caimito, San Juan said, “Before, I would often fight, argue as well, but now I can control myself. I learned to value myself…nor feel that was I less than anybody or anything else.”

The positive effects of the TVC program are also felt beyond the classroom. Ernesto Santiago, also a student from the Maria Mendoza school said, “Now these young people and children that you used to see hanging around late at night are home early.”

New legislation that was signed last week guarantees the values taught by the Tus Valores Cuentan program must be part of the curriculum in all public schools in Puerto Rico. For this upcoming semester, TVC is being introduced to 143 new schools bringing the total to 443 schools participating.

Teachers, administrators and public officials have also embraced the island-wide initiative. Secretary of Education Edward Moreno said, “In the same way that the children learn to say negative things and bad words to their friends, that are also able to learn values, and that their behavior can benefit society.”

For more information on Tus Valores Cuentan, visit here.

Education Law Amended to Include Tus Valores Cuentan Values

Governor Luis Fortuno signs new education legislation with students from a Tus Valores Cuentan school in attendance.

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño has signed new legislation that makes the values of the Tus Valores Cuentan program a permanent part of the curriculum of the Puerto Rico Department of Education.

The new amendment (No. 149 to amend article 3.03) requires that universal values such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship are part of the formal school curriculum. The values should be imparted by directors, teachers and school personnel “with the goal of obtaining values-integrated education, developing positive character attributes and social emotional strategies that are fundamental for daily life.”

Governor Fortuño officially signed the new legislation on Tuesday at a back-to-school event at the Jose R. Barreras School, a Tus Valores Cuentan school in the Unibón de Morovis neighborhood. The school was also celebrating its re-inauguration after undergoing an extensive renovation that has dramatically improved its science and technology departments. “With the signing of this law, we are setting the foundation to enable the Tus Valores Cuentan program to expand,” said Fortuno. Tus Valores Cuentan will be integrated into 500 public schools in Puerto Rico for the coming year.

Fortuño discussed the success of the Tus Valores Cuentan program, citing a recent study done by the University of Iowa of Tus Valores Cuentan schools. The study found that 90 percent of parents found improvements in their child’s motivation to learn. Eighty-five percent of parents believed that the state of their child’s education had improved, and 91 percent said their child’s desire to go to college increased. The results were based on a survey of over 50,000 parents. The study also included a survey of students, teachers and school directors that yielded similarly positive results in overall academic engagement, reduced incidents of bullying and fighting and increased attendance.

“When we are able to successfully integrate values in the lessons and daily activities, the results are felt throughout all aspects of the school environment,” said Fortuño. “We’ve seen how this program has changed lives.”

For more information on the Tus Valores Cuentan program, visit here.

Puerto Rico Governor Reiterates Support for Tus Valores Cuentan

Luis FortunoIn a recent interview with the newspaper El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno highlighted the merits and importance of Tus Valores Cuentan (CHARACTER COUNTS!), and the positive impact it’s having in Puerto Rico.

Hundreds of schools across the island are using Tus Valores Cuentan to improve school climate and help students develop ethical values. Like CHARACTER COUNTS! in the continental U.S., Tus Valores Cuentan is based on the Six Pillars of Character (los seis pilares del carácter) and helps teachers integrate these universal values into everyday lessons and activities.

In his interview with El Nuevo Dia, Governor Fortuno spoke of his belief in the Tus Valores Cuentan program to develop leadership in communities, tackle moral development in schools, and even to combat violence and crime in Puerto Rico.

Learn more about Tus Valores Cuentan here.

CHARACTER COUNTS! goes worldwide. Meet a globe-hopping CC! trainer.

One of most exciting changes at CHARACTER COUNTS! in the last year has been our expansion in schools and communities outside the continental United States. International attendees have always been part of our stateside Character Development Seminars and other training programs, but only in the last 18 months have CC! trainers begun visiting international public schools and helping to begin large-scale implementations of the program.

We thought you might enjoy hearing from one of our international trainers, Gary Smit. It’s possible that you’ve already met him at a three-day Character Development Seminar or a one-day in-service program, of which he’s taught many. Gary has more experience than anyone else brining character education training sessions to international audiences. He has taught professional development courses for teachers in Barranquilla, Colombia; Quito, Ecuador; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Bermuda; Singapore; and multiple sites in Puerto Rico. Soon, he’ll be heading to Lagos, Nigeria, to begin the process of implementing CC! in schools throughout that country. We caught up with him recently to discuss his international experiences and what they have meant to him.

You were a school superintendent for 25 years before you started to focus on training teachers and others in character education. What in your experience working in the schools led you to believe that character education was essential to school success?

I accepted the fact that there are really two goals of an educational program – to help students do their best work academically and also be their best self.  In working with teachers on implementing CHARACTER COUNTS! I came to believe that children and young people learn best when they are intentionally taught the Six Pillars of Character. Secondly, I came to realize that students will not often listen to what teachers say but they believe everything they do. Finally, as superintendent, I understood that our community would be a better place to live, work, and learn when the Six Pillars were recognized and respected by parents and community members.

As CHARACTER COUNTS! has expanded internationally, you’ve been a big part of bringing its trainings to teachers and principals all over the world. What’s the biggest difference between training educators in the U.S. and internationally? Is there anything that’s the same everywhere you go?

No matter where I train, there are similarities in what teachers would like to see in terms of positive beliefs to instill in students and the negative beliefs to be reduced.  The need for practical tools and strategies to teach, enforce, advocate and model good character is the same regardless of the country.

I do get more questions from international trainees related to the how CHARACTER COUNTS! can be intentionally taught. I’ve found that they often don’t want you to get into a lot of theory. They’re interested far more in ideas and strategies. Many times, teachers in other countries have not had the level of professional development that teachers in the United States have enjoyed.

You were heavily involved in training teachers and school directors in Puerto Rico for Tus Valores Cuentan (literally, Your Values Matter), the comprehensive CC! program that has been implemented in about 200 schools there. In fact, you visited the island about 10 times in the past year and a half! What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards of working on TVC? How is it different from mainland CC! trainings?

The first challenge, of course, is the language. That was very interesting to come up with Spanish translations of all the CC! resources, starting with the Six Pillars. For TVC, we had to sit down and say, what would be the most appropriate translations of the Pillars? (Note: The Six Pillars of TVC are confiabilidad, respeto, responsabilidad, justicia, bondad, and civismo.)

As for rewards, we’ve found the real beauty and benefit of TVC is that the schools are receiving intensive and continual training in CC! Each master trainer has 12 schools to be connected with and aligned with for the entire school year. They create parent presentations and teacher trainings, and they stay in touch with the school champions and directors (i.e. principals) on implementation. On the mainland, when I, as national faculty, go do an in-service at a school, they may never have contact again either with us or with the institute. I go present, and leave I may never know or hear what happens afterward. In Puerto Rico, as in Barranquilla, Colombia, it is rewarding to experience the sustained relationship, and to see impacts over the long term.

Plus, we’ve realized that in Latin American cultures, the music, the visual, the arts play a far greater role in communication and education than in the states. We see so many murals, posters, songs. We saw this in Puerto Rico, and have it to be true in Colombia and Ecuador, as well. (For a look at some of the TVC murals in Puerto Rico, check out our Flickr page.)

Can you talk about one of your favorite or most memorable experiences doing trainings abroad?

I’ve really seen enthusiasm and engagement with the teachers in the countries that I’ve worked with. You see them, and their attitude is, “This is worth it, and I believe I can do it.” It’s very exciting, their willingness to make a difference.

What is the number-one “take-away” you want all your attendees, foreign and domestic, to learn from your seminars?

They have the power to help change the lives of children and young people by intentionally instilling the qualities and traits inherent in being a person of good character.

Images: (top) A group of Tu Valores Cuentan school champions after their initial training in Puerto Rico. (left)  A Tu Valores Cuentan mural at a Puerto Rican school. All rights reserved by CHARACTER COUNTS!

Tus Valores Cuentan celebrates outstanding success

Tus Valores Cuentan Master Trainers, with Josephson Institute founder and president Michael Josephson.

On May 17th, the first Cumbre Tus Valores Cuentan (CHARACTER COUNTS! Summit) convened in Puerto Rico, where government agencies, police departments, sports organizations, and hundreds of schools have adopted CHARACTER COUNTS!.

At the Summit, Healthy Schools Program Director Nilka Vargas and Secretary of Education Dr. Jesús Rivera Sánchez presented many awards to elementary, middle, and high schools, including awards for best murals, best school initiative, best integration of Tus Valores Cuentan into the community, best teamwork demonstrated by school personnel, and exemplary commitment to implementation of the program.*

In her introduction for the “Most Exemplary Commitment by a Director” award, Nilka Vargas said,

These directors provided time and space for the initiative, integrated the Six Pillars of Character into all school procedures (such as in the taking of disciplinary action), allowed their Champions to meet consistently, provided guidance and workshops to parents and others close to the school community, and they were personally involved in all activities and joined others schools in their efforts.

Introducing the “Most Innovative Project” award, Governor Luis G. Fortuño explained,

Maintaining the interest and commitment of children and young people is key to the success of initiatives such as Tus Valores Cuentan. Awakening their natural curiosity is not an easy task, but when it happens the results are truly stunning, and they have a contagious effect on other children and both young and senior members of their communities. This recognition is particularly important for schools nominated, because each of these schools awoke the interest of their students in a project based on The Six Pillars of Character that was innovative, original, and replicable for future students. [Learn more about the stunning results of TVC.]

None of this success would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our partner in Puerto Rico, Camera Mundi International, which conducted the training of our Master Trainers, who then worked tirelessly to get TVC up and running. The master trainers trained the staff in the schools, participated in director trainings, coordinated kick-off events, maintained relationships with schools, and did everything else humanly possible to make sure the program was a success.

Thank you, Camera Mundi and Master Trainers, for all of your hard work. We wish you a happy summer and even greater success next year.

-CC! National Office

* Correction: an earlier version of this story linked to a slideshow of murals, but they were not the murals done by students.

“I respect now.”

Kids at the Festival de Valores

From El Nuevo Dia in Puerto Rico (translated by Olga Ortiz Collazo, with help from Google Translate):

His tears were more eloquent than words. Alexis Gonzalez, a fourth-grade student from the José D Zayas Elementary School in  Las Piedras, just wanted to tell Governor Luis Fortuño about the impact Tus Valores Cuentan (CHARACTER COUNTS!) has had on him, but seeing tear after tear stream down his sweet face, the Chief Executive understood.

“I respect now. I used to fight a lot, and now I’ve changed  because I don’t fight, I don’t look for fights,” Alexis told the Governor, still unable to hide his emotion. The Governor praised his determination and courage, as did Jesenia Medina, his mother, who testified to the positive changes.

“Everyone knows he was a really tough kid to deal with on the playground, but Tus Valores has helped me at home, too. He doesn’t fight anymore. If we hadn’t started [teaching] values, over time he might have become a bully,” Alexis’ mother said. “The Six Pillars … for me have been really big,” she said.

Several children expressed their appreciation to the Governor, Secretary of Education Jesus Rivera Sanchez, Las Piedras Mayor Miguel “Micky” Lopez, and the rest of the visitors who participated in this school’s news conference highlighting the impact of the program. The students explained that the program helped them improve their discipline, respect, and responsibility. It also motivated them to undertake special projects in their classrooms and throughout the school, where they painted and developed gardens.

“When a community works together, the result is excellent students,” Principal Marta R. Davila testified. She also thanked the Volunteer Parents Committee for their involvement. One of the members is  Alexis’ mother.

“Without the involvement of everyone, the entire community, the program would not go as far as we want it to,” agreed Governor Fortuño. He said that currently 205 schools are implementing Tus Valores Cuentan, as well as programs from the Department of Recreation and Athletics. The program will increase its reach next year, but he couldn’t say how many more schools will adopt it.

During the event, the Governor also recognized the academic excellence of nine sixth-grade students graduating with the highest grade-point averages. He awarded each of them a laptop.

Acts of kindness at Esc. Jose Rodriguez, Puerto Rico

By Nydia Barreiro (Master Trainer, Tus Valores Cuentan) and Rosario Rivera (Teacher, José Ramón Rodriguez Elementary)

Long HairMrs. Rosario Rivera teaches English at the José Ramón Rodriguez Elementary School in the town of Coamo, and last semester she began working with Tus Valores Cuentan (CHARACTER COUNTS!). For one of her first TVC activities, she showed her class the film Letters to God, about a boy with cancer who inspires his community by writing letters to God.

When Mrs. Rivera told her students she’d gotten a fundraising letter from the American Cancer Society, they asked her if she was going to give anything. She told them she always did. Then she said, “Remember the movie we saw in class, and the values we talked about? This is a way to show we care.” She told them she was going to put an empty can on her desk, and if anyone who wanted to could give their leftover pennies. The pennies added up, and when it was time to send in their donation, the students had gathered $32.00.

Short HairNext, Mrs. Rivera and her students participated in their town’s march against cancer, and Mrs. Rivera told the students that her long hair was her next gift to the Locks of Love Foundation. They didn’t believe her, but one day in January Mrs. Rivera walked into her classroom with short hair and a box from the post office. Her students couldn’t believe their eyes. She opened the box and showed them a very long braid. Then she let one of her students write the address for her, and off it went. A couple of weeks later, Mrs. Rivera got a certificate of appreciation and took it to school to put on the board for everyone to see. To her astonishment, Mrs. Rivera’s female students told her they also want to let their hair grow so they can donate it.

Cut Braid

Mrs. Rivera’s students really enjoy the Tus Valores Cuentan activities. They feel they’re important in this world, and they’re making a difference, and this is truly having an impact on the way they think and what they do. Mrs. Rivera can see the change in their actions, and she is glad to be able to plant a little seed to make this world a better place for all of us.

Tus Valores Cuentan for Puerto Rico’s public schools

[Read this in Spanish here. Questions? Contact Marisol Selles at]

Tus Valores Cuentan is a unique and comprehensive K-12 integrated values program specifically developed by Josephson Institute for Puerto Rico schools. It is derived from the Institute’s highly successful CHARACTER COUNTS! program, which currently reaches millions of children and their families.


Tus Valores Cuentan includes training and materials to help schools create a school culture to achieve three inter-related objectives:

  1. Academic achievement. Instill core educational and behavioral values that will improve the learning environment and permit the students reach their intellectual potential.
  2. Personal growth. Develop in all students positive character attributes and critical social and emotional life skills to help them become personally successful and socially responsible (including reducing youth violence).
  3. Safety. Provide a physical and social environment where all students are and feel physically and emotionally safe.

It is important to know that Tus Valores Cuentan is not a curriculum that replaces any existing part of the academic program. It is, instead, a framework that allows teachers to integrate values in everyday lessons and activities in a manner that enhances rather than interferes with the school’s other goals.


Every aspect of Tus Valores Cuentan is designed to initiate meaningful, measurable, and sustainable positive changes in attitudes and behavior.

At the core of Tus Valores Cuentan are two fundamental features that distinguish it from other culture-changing and character-building programs:

  • Six Pillars of Character. Tus Valores Cuentan adopts the Six Pillars of Character central to CHARACTER COUNTS!: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring, fairness, and citizenship, which assures that all instruction and reinforcement of values build upon shared universally accepted values and attributes that comprise good character.
  • Four Point Implementation Strategy. Properly implemented, Tus Valores Cuentan can result in significant changes in attitudes and behavior through the use of a Four Point Implementation strategy that teaches, enforces, advocates, and models the Six Pillars of Character

Phase One – Launching Tus Valores Cuentan

Tus Valores Cuentan will be introduced to approximately 200 schools commencing in August 2010. All training sessions, consultation, and materials during Phase One will be paid for by the Department of Education with funds obtained in a federal grant.

Identification of Participating Schools (May 1-10, 2010). The Department of Education will identify 28 “clusters” or “cohorts” consisting of a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools. Ideally, four Phase One clusters will be in each region.

The scope and visibility of this program will make it of national significance, and participating schools will receive extensive training and support. If you are a high school director, please consider becoming a candidate for what we hope will be thought of as an honor and privilege.

Selection and Training of Master Trainers (May 1-30, 2010). Josephson Institute will solicit applications for Master Trainers. By May 20, the Institute will select approximately 30 applicants to participate in a three-day interviewing/training session to become candidates for the Master Trainer. On May 25-27, the Institute will offer training for all candidates. Based on qualifications, interest, and performance during the Master Trainer Training sessions, the Institute will invite select candidates to become Master Trainers.

Training of Onsite Champions (June 1-30, 2010). In order for a school to participate in Phase One of the Tus Valores Cuentan program, it must send a minimum of three staff members (administrators, teachers, counselors, or coaches) to be trained as Tus Valores Cuentan Onsite Champions. Approximately 1,000 teachers, administrators, and staff selected by the directors of Phase One schools will receive the Champions training during June (each three-day training will encompass groups of 50 or less at locations throughout Puerto Rico). Champions will be responsible for implementation, ongoing support, and instruction to assure that their entire school is properly utilizing the materials and strategies.

Training of School Directors (July 15-August 5, 2010). Directors of the 200 Phase One Tus Valores Cuentan schools will receive a special school administrator training to assure their knowledge and support of the program (each three-day training sessions will encompass groups of 50 or less at locations throughout Puerto Rico).

On-Site, One-Day, All Staff Tus Valores Cuentan Orientation Training (August 1-31, 2010). Each participating school will receive a one-day in-service training for the entire staff by a Josephson Institute Master Trainer.

Ongoing Coaching and Consultation (September 1-May 30, 2011). A Josephson Institute Master Trainer will visit each participating school at least twice during the academic year and provide 10 hours of group or individual coaching. Schools can apply for additional hours of coaching up to 25 hours.

Instructional and Support Materials. A wide range of teaching/learning tools (books, guides, DVDs, games, music, activities, contests, incentive items, apparel, posters, and banners) will be provided to each school implementing Tus Valores Cuentan.

Assessment and Evaluation. All participating schools must administer pre and post surveys to students, faculty, and parents and collect and report on specific data relating to drop-outs, absences, and disciplinary actions. This information will be analyzed by Josephson Institute and presented in reports to the Department of Education and the individual schools.

Sports Programs. The Tus Valores Cuentan program has been specifically adapted for use in sports programs and has formally been adopted by the Department of Recreation and Sports under the name Logrando la Victoria con Honor. This program will offer a special one-day training for coaches and provide a comprehensive set of guidelines, codes of conduct, and other materials for coaches, athletes, and parents.