Patience. Perseverance. Integrity. Honesty. Kindness. Respect.  

We can all agree that youngsters who possess these positive character traits are more likely to grow into successful and responsible adults. That was the idea behind a revolutionary approach that set out to transform St. Louis schools by raising the academic and ethical responsibility for students. 

The late McDonnell Douglas executive and philanthropist Sandy McDonnell led efforts to establish the concept as a resource of the Cooperating School Districts (now EducationPlus). And in 1988, seven St. Louis school districts signed up for the program, marking the beginning of CharacterPlus, considered to be the longest-running and most successful character education initiative in the country.  

Students at AESM Middle School, the recipient of the first-ever Friends of CharacterPlus Founders Grant

CharacterPlus has since widened its reach, and as it approaches its 30th year, it currently has programs in more than 600 schools across the St. Louis area.  

More programs in more schools made funding of the essence, and it led to the creation of Friends of CharacterPlus in 2005. The volunteer organization aims to raise awareness and funds through donations and memberships.  

Friends of CharacterPlus founder Veronica McDonnell and former board of trustees president Lynn Lowrance attend the Founders Grant ceremony at AESM School

This year, Friends officially launched the Founders Grant in honor of its founder, Veronica McDonnell (Sandy’s daughter-in-law). The three-year grant provides an underserved St. Louis-area school or district with The CharacterPlus Way, an evidence-based program that supplies schoolwide training, leading to significantly higher student achievement and improvement in student behavior.  

Friends board president Logan Finerty said the grant’s first-ever recipient is AESM Middle School at L’Ouverture in the St. Louis Public Schools district.  

“We’ve adopted AESM, and for the next three years, we will provide students and staff with our most intensive services – one that would serve the entire child,” Finerty said, noting the value of impressing positive character traits in young children. “I’ve visited CharacterPlus schools, and it drove home the importance of what we were doing. You can see character education being instilled: Kids were orderly and in straight lines, they raised their hands before speaking, and they were respectful toward their teachers and each other – these were good kids.”  


To help CharacterPlus expand its role in the community, specifically with parents of school-age children, and to support all functions of the CharacterPlus organization. 

AESM school principal Ce Andre Perry and Friends of CharacterPlus founder Veronica McDonnell with students during the Founders Grant ceremony


Friends of CharacterPlus’ annual Fall Party will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m, Friday, Nov. 17 at Moulin in Lafayette Square. Proceeds benefit CharacterPlus programs in more than 600 local schools. Trish Muyco-Tobin and Lynn Lowrance are serving as this year’s co-chairs. Enjoy an open bar, gourmet slider station, dessert display and more, plus live music by the Steve Ewing Duo.

For tickets and other information, call Terri Stout at (314) 692-1215, email, or visit

Gazelle STL is a proud media sponsor of the 2017 Fall Party.



Former St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long visits with students and staff of Affton High School, a CharacterPlus participant.

Photo courtesy of CharacterPlus