This year, Jostens is partnering with Search Institute, an organization dedicated to researching and understanding what kids need in order to succeed. Over the past 25 years, Search Institute has studied the strengths and challenges in the lives of more than five million middle and high school youth across the country and around the world. Like Jostens Renaissance, Search Institute focuses on young people’s strengths, rather than emphasizing their problems or deficiencies. Visit Search-Institute.org to learn more.

The following is an excerpt from the November Renaissance Kit: Hard Facts on Soft Skills. Below the message from Search Institute CEO, Dr. Kent Pekel, you will find an adaptation of their research. 

Our nation and world are in the midst of sweeping economic and educational change. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s workers, who must find their way in an era of high-tech, global competition and unrelenting change. That’s all in a time when we worry about growing gaps between the haves and the have-nots in education, opportunities and earnings.
We responded by pressing students to learn and know more and better — and to show what they know on standardized tests. We created new curricula, instructional materials, assessments, mobile apps, professional development programs, school models and accountability systems.

These strategies are necessary but not sufficient. Along with learning math, science and other technical subjects and “hard skills,” students also need to develop the
“soft skills” (or character skills) that give them the personal strengths to be effective leaders, workers, family members and citizens. Dozens of these skills, attitudes, and values — which we call “character strengths”— really matter. (They’re not really “soft.”) They include:


These character strengths are caught more than they’re taught.

  • They’re caught through relationships with their families, teachers, coaches, mentors and peers.
  • They’re caught when students discover, practice and internalize them.
  • They’re caught when we create expectations that each and every student has value, can learn and grow and have something important to offer their families, their communities and the world, and remove barriers that prevent them from doing so.

When students catch these character strengths, they are ready not only to survive in a rapidly changing world. They are ready to thrive in it.

Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
President and CEO, Search Institute

Click the image to download a PDF with class activities, statistics and research around character strengths in students.


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