The Virtues Project: Hope for Our New World

“And what is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered…” -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I had no idea what I was in for when I attended The Virtues Project Workshop which was offered through the Gifted Development Center September 23-24.  Facilitators, Christine Ayling and Susan Picard, journeyed to Denver from their Canadian home to share their passion for this grassroots initiative.  
The Virtues Project is a modern concept with ancient roots. In 1991, Canadian founders, Linda Kavelin-Popov, Dr. Dan Popov and John Kavelin, were feeling much like we are today. They were concerned about senseless violence and knew that the answer rested in the children. They made the decision to research the ancient sacred texts of 15 primary world religions to find the common virtues. This work resulted in 52 universal virtues which serve as a foundation of character.   
Somewhere along the way, our society has become so focused on discovering what is wrong with people that we have lost sight of what is right with them. We have stopped seeing each other.  We have stopped seeing ourselves.  
The Virtues Project offers a simple, yet fresh, approach to helping children draw upon the rich qualities that dwell within and hone those which may need bolstering. It provides a culture of character that emphasizes kindness, justice and integrity. 
During the two-day workshop, attended by parents and professionals, we delved deep into recognizing the virtues in ourselves and others.  We also gleaned a new language of empowerment to utilize challenges as opportunities for character development.  Many attendees experienced “Aha moments” when realizing how they could speak more effectively with their children.  For example, instead of asking a child, “Why are you crying?" we might ask, “What are those tears?”  This simple adjustment in wording can make the difference between a child feeling comfortable enough to open up or not. 
I am a child and family therapist specializing in the gifted population.  I consider myself to be well-versed in empowerment, but The Virtues Project gave me a new language and refreshing perspective that I am now incorporating as a foundation to my life and work.  We talk with children about academics and the social and emotional aspects of giftedness, but we often forget to focus on character.   
If you are not familiar with The Virtues Project or were unable to attend the workshop, I invite you to check out the website at  It is not too late to get involved! This initiative is being taught to children, parents, educators and community leaders in over 100 countries around the world.   
The key to our future exists within all of us but needs to be cultivated.  The Virtues Project provides fertile ground for growing a new world that honors qualities of character above all else. 
Tina Harlow, MSW, LCSW is the founder of Guiding Bright and the parent of two children.  Tina provides individual and family counseling to gifted children and their families. Her website is
Linda Hockman, G/T Challenge Coordinator, at Hygiene Elementary School in St. Vrain School District, wrote Linda Silverman a beautiful description of her experience at the Virtues Project. 
"Since the Virtues Project,  I want to tell you about some virtues I saw in you that weekend.  I saw humility, service, vulnerability, and resilience.  Although you are a leader yourself, you designed the workshop so that Susan and Christine would be the leaders for the weekend.  This took humility, and you capped it off by your service to all of us --  the wonderful food, drinks, making sure we were comfortable, lovely mugs (!), even little wipes in the restroom!  (Talk about attention to detail, woman!)  You were so courageous and vulnerable in sharing on Sunday morning!  No one else wanted to volunteer for the companion interview!  Your sharing from the heart touched everyone.  And then, with resiliency, you dried the tears and continued to be engaged in the day.  Just wanted you to know that I, for one, noticed."