A new season is right around the corner for the Carolina Panthers, who invited dozens of teachers and principals from across the Carolinas to join thousands of attendees at this year’s Fan Fest, before heading back to school.


The Panthers hosted a tailgate and special seats for the educators to thank them for implementing Character Playbook in their middle schools during the past school year.



Character Playbook is a national partnership between United Way and the National Football League designed to bring character education into schools. The innovative digital program helps students cultivate and maintain healthy relationships through adolescence and into adulthood.


In fall 2016, United Way of Central Carolinas and the Panthers teamed up with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Cabarrus County Schools to kick off Character Playbook in 17 schools. The program since has expanded to more classes in existing schools as well as other schools in additional counties in the Charlotte region.


As of this June, more than 7,100 students at 26 schools in United Way of Central Carolinas’ footprint have participated in Character Playbook.


Sarah Johnson, a health and physical education teacher at Bradley Middle School in Huntersville, said she’s used Character Playbook for two years and ties the program into her curriculum standards.


“It’s a really good way for them to practice my content on their own and to take ownership,” she said. “I look forward to keeping that going because it’s a nice way for them to practice our lessons. I think the students really like it.”


Character Playbook focuses on middle school because the transition years between early childhood and high school are a time of increased brain development. Middle schoolers also routinely face issues like bullying and peer pressure.


Comprised of six interactive digital modules that cover real-life scenarios, Character Playbook helps students analyze the influences on their thinking and behavior, resolve conflicts in a positive manner and step in to help friends and peers.


The program includes assessments and pre- and post-surveys which are used to track knowledge gains and changes in students’ attitudes and behaviors.


More than 10 middle schools across the state also got to participate in Character Playbook Live with former Carolina Panthers player Chris Draft, allowing students to engage in a conversation on character during a video conference call with Draft.


Ella Boyd, a science teacher at Carmel Middle School in in Charlotte, said Character Playbook has been very user-friendly for her students and relevant to experiences they are going through in middle school.


“It’s a really good way to do character education. We’ve tried different things over the last 10 years or so and this seems to be the most engaging for the students,” she said. “And the students loved that they got to interact with a Panthers player and ask him questions.”


Like Boyd and other educators have observed, the content in Character Playbook engages students in a unique way while providing teachers with resources to enhance their character education curriculum and foster student discussion.


Teresa Lester, a career and technical education teacher at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius, said Character Playbook complements her teaching of Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.”


“A lot of these kids are in fight or flight mode, and Character Playbook helps them with conflict resolution,” she said. “It has taught them that everything doesn’t have to be a fight. Instead, they can talk through things and avoid putting themselves in bad situations. It’s opened up the conversation door for conversations that I wouldn’t normally get to have with my students.”


As schools in our region get ready to head into another year of learning, United Way of Central Carolinas thanks the NFL and Panthers for investing in our youth and is excited to watch Character Playbook continue to grow and make a positive impact in our schools and neighborhoods.


To learn more about education programs supported by United Way, click here.