Two River Falls schools were recognized by the character education organization this year: River Falls High School and Greenwood Elementary.

Character education has been a continuing effort in the River Falls School District for years.

Sunshine fund

The River Falls High School Sunshine Fund earned a "Promising Practices" award, presented at a conference in Washington, D.C.

High school principal Kit Luedtke said the Sunshine Fund shows a display of "student compassion and empathy and caring for others in the community."

"Our national promising practice award, I think, reflects that, that our kids are doing something different than what the norm is as adolescents, or as teenagers," Luedtke said.

The Sunshine Fund is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that offers financial assistance to River Falls School District families and "boots-on-the-ground" help such as raking leaves or mowing lawns.

The Sunshine Fund Board is made of students, mentored by community members.

Three of the students who went to accept the award, Shihab Adam, Macie VanNurden, and Riley Jahnke, said the best part of going to the conference was getting to share their ideas.

"Our main purpose going down there was just to spread our ideas, and actually just show people what we've accomplished and what we've created," they said.

They're hoping to inspire other communities.

"And inspiring other young people to step up and do something kind of like this," VanNurden said.

The students made the most out of their trip, sharing their ideas and learning from others as well, especially speakers at the conference.

"What I got overall from the whole experience, from every speaker, is just...Kindness is everything," Adams said. "It really is."

He was especially taken with the idea of random acts of kindness.

"If each of us can just do a little bit," Van Nurden said, "There's power in numbers. Maybe if each of us were to do something with like three students maybe, and they'll think of it and they'll try and do something to a couple other students, and it'll just hopefully spread all around."

VanNurden said the Sunshine Fund group members tried to speak out themselves, while listening to different speakers to maximise what the group could learn collectively.

Adams said it was an "unforgettable experience."


Greenwood Elementary received a national 2017 School of Character award. According to a news release from, Greenwood was one of 83 schools to receive this award in 2017.

Greenwood has been practicing character education for six years. Criteria for being selected as a National School of Character are based on's 11 Principles of Effective Character Education.

Greenwood received a State Schools of Character honorable mention in 2016.

Read more about Greenwood's award here: " target="_blank">