Medal of Honor recipients met the students who study them Tuesday evening in Neyland Stadium’s club level for the Character Development Program Dinner.
More than 200 people attended the event, enjoying Calhoun’s catering and a chance to explore the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s signature educational outreach – the Character Development Program.
Using the stories of living Medal of Honor recipients to inspire students and teach core values, the CDP has been heavily adopted in East Tennessee. Attendees at the event included Boy Scout troops, high schoolers, middle schoolers and representatives from other character development programs who came to study CDP’s framework. These organizations integrate the CDP into lesson plans and group activities.
“The CDP brings together the values that are important to East Tennesseans and allows a way for those same values to be implemented into the school systems in a strategic way that the future generations can learn from,” said Taylor Hathorn, the manager of outreach and logistics for CDP. “The faculty and leaders in the school systems know it, the parents know it, and the students know it.
“That passion for what this program teaches is why the CDP will continue to be successful in this area for years to come.”
After dinner and a reception, a brief program began with an invocation by Fr. Patrick Brownell of St. Patrick Catholic Church. Harold A. Fritz, the CMOHS President, then introduced Thomas Norris, an FBI agent and former Navy SEAL who received a Medal of Honor for a rescue mission he conducted during the Vietnam War.
Norris delivered the first ever FBI Character Development Awards to Blake Simmons, a student from Stratford STEM Magnet High School, and Kennedy Morgan, a student from Jefferson County High. Nominated by their teachers, both students were cited as examples of the commitment and integrity that the CDP strives to develop. The award carried a $2,500 value.
Misti Gray, the English teacher who nominated Morgan, brought the CDP to Jefferson County High from a previous school. She integrates the lessons (available at cmohedu.org) into her literature classes and has already seen results; 70 of her students traveled to Gatlinburg last spring – at 8 a.m., the day after prom – to participate in the Mountain Man March, a marathon or half marathon hike to support the Gold Star Mothers Club.
“I think everybody has the innate sense of being better and making the world around them better,” she said. “It’s just rather they take it or not. And I think this [the CDP] makes it okay for them to take that opportunity – this makes it okay for them to march 26.2 miles, to be better.”
Several other students who participate in CDP shared their impressions of the program, all positive and appreciative for the men in medals who sat and listened, and at the end of the evening, attendees were invited to the club level seating to watch a short video about the CDP on the stadium’s endzone screen, produced by the Medal of Honor.