With the recent luncheon honoring this year's recipients of the 2013 Juanita Haugen Community of Character Awards, the legacy of one of Pleasanton's most admired supporters of public education is once again in full view.
At the time of her death, in 2007, Juanita Haugen had logged roughly close to 30 years of service as a Pleasanton Unified School District Trustee, in addition to countless hours volunteering for many other community causes.
One of Haugen's most notable accomplishments in the public arena was the 2002 co-founding of what is today the Pleasanton Community of Character Collaborative. The Collaborative is a volunteer organization committed to strengthening the community through a culture that emphasizes positive behavior and consideration of others.
According to its vision statement, the nonprofit "seeks to engender a community culture of internalized values, goodwill, and the finest human character traits through community support and education by inspiring citizens to make a difference in the world around them while honoring the diversity that makes our country great."A community-wide effort identified six primary character traits emblematic of the vision: Responsibility, Compassion, Self-Discipline, Honesty, Respect and Integrity.
The City of Pleasanton, Pleasanton Unified School District and the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce are active participants in the program, which encourages people "to work together to ensure that individuals and families are strong, homes and streets are safe, education is effective, businesses are productive, and citizens care for one another."
Juanita Haugen dedicated her life to the pursuit of these goals. She and her husband, Gil, settled in Pleasanton in 1970, when he took a job as a research chemist at Lawrence Livermore Labs.They had met at the University of Southern California, where she got a degree in social work and he completed his doctorate. Education and community service were two of the core values they instilled in their four daughters, all of whom attended Pleasanton public schools.
"Right away, Mom became involved in volunteer work: Brownies, 4-H, PTA, school committees, and so much more," recalls daughter Heather Haugen Rizzoli, who continues the family association with the Collaborative. Haugen was elected to the school board in 1979. Over time she, along with colleagues and fellow volunteers, became convinced that character education "didn't stop at the schools," Rizzoli states. "Mom and the rest of the coalition members thought character should be encouraged and the traits serve as reminders within our families, businesses, faith-based organizations, and the city as well as in our schools."
In 2008 the Collaborative established the annual Juanita Haugen Awards to recognize Pleasanton volunteers who exemplify the high ethical and moral standards of behavior it advocates. This year's recipients are three individuals and one nonprofit organization - Pam Yeaw, Jim Ott, Tom Fox, and the Rotary Club of Pleasanton-that have an impressive array of community contributions to their credit. The Collaborative also honors three high school students with the Juanita Haugen High School Civic Engagement Award every year.
To further extend its mission, the Collaborative has created an Organization of Character program that allows local businesses and other organizations to demonstrate their commitment to its values. For more information visit www.communityofcharacter.org .
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