Iowa Character Awards

The Ray Center at Drake University annually recognizes Iowans who show the Six Pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS!: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. The Ames Community School District is proud to be the recipient this year of two honors: the School of Character Award and the Educator of Character Award. 

The Ray Center honors two of Drake’s most respected alumni, Robert D. and Billie Ray. Their humanitarian efforts, character, and leadership set an inspirational example for multiple generations. In addition, the Ray Center provides character and leadership development strategies to improve civility and develop ethical leaders worldwide. Since 2005, the Ray Center has recognized more than 100 Iowans for showing good character. A volunteer selection committee reviews nominations for all awards. 

The Educator of Character Award

Ames Middle School Principal, Yonas Michael, is the recipient of the 2021 Educator of Character Award. Mr. Michael first moved to Ames in 2004 for graduate school and continued to serve the Ames district, first as a counselor and then as Director of Student Services. He moved to Maryland in 2017 and returned to Ames in 2019 as Ames Middle School’s principal.

Upon entering his current position, he spent the first year focusing on the building’s culture. The nomination letter, written by one of the teachers in the building, said, “Yonas built trusting relationships and revised our building structures to honor our need for transparency, consistency, fairness, and sound decision making. While nudging us towards a mindset needed for the change to come, behind the scenes, Yonas collaboratively overhauled our schedule, behavioral responses, and the composition and responsibilities of a new administrative team.”

It goes on to say, “As the staff began to thrive, Yonas pushed us to examine patterns of inequity and expand the voices being heard. Yonas’s personal background and early career in counseling afforded deeper understanding of the untold struggles students, families, and teachers attempt to shoulder.”

Mr. Michael once said that “we must sharpen ourselves and each other with love and accountability,” and he lives by that motto every day. He is often the first to give credit to others for the work that he is leading because for Yonas, it is about doing the right work that helps students. For that reason, it is no wonder his staff nominated him for this recognition. 

The School of Character Award

The Ames Community School District is the recipient of the 2021 School of Character Award. Nominated by a parent in the District with supporting letters from community partners, the nomination focused on the District’s commitment to equity and critical consciousness and specifically recognized this year’s Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action that took place the first week in February. 

Supporting nomination letters outlined how the District embodied the six pillars of character and commits to equity and access that empowers every individual to reach their full personal and educational potential. “Nothing exemplifies this spirit more than the Black Lives Matter in School Week of Action this February, which constituted a district-wide week of curriculum oriented to help students understand principles of equity in age-appropriate ways.”

Below are links to the nomination packets for the Educator of Character Award (Yonas Michael) and School of Character Awards (Ames CSD).  

Ames CSD Character Award Nomination Packet

Yonas Michael Character Award Nomination Packet