Walnut Middle School Awards

“While attending a Character Education conference in St. Louis, in the summer of 2000, we discovered the ‘frosting’ to our bully prevention program. We found Purple Hands Pledge® – The Hands & Words Are Not For Hurting Project developed to decrease the incidence of school violence and increase the development of healthy relationships among students based on respect and equality. In October of 2000, we had a huge ‘Purple Hands Pep Rally’ to introduce Purple Hands Pledge® to our school community and to the larger Grand Island community as well.” – Vikki Deuel

National School of Character Award

Presented to Walnut Middle School, Grand Island, Nebraska, the only school in the nation to receive this prestigious award. Each year, Character Education Partnership (CEP) selects schools and districts from across the country that demonstrates outstanding and successful character education initiatives. The CEP is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to developing moral character and civic virtue in our nation’s youth as one means of creating a more compassionate and responsible society. The 2003 National Schools of Character Award was presented to Walnut Middle School in Washington, D.C. in October 2003. Ten schools (K-12) in the nation were honored with this award. Walnut Middle School was the only middle school to be selected. 

Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh At Me Program

Walnut Middle School, Grand Island, Nebraska was selected as one of five schools in the United States and Canada to receive recognition as a model for positive change in schools. On June 30th- July 1st, 2005 at Operation Respect’s national symposium in Washington, D.C. representatives from Walnut Middle School presented their results which highlighted the Hands & Words Are Not For Hurting Project®. Participants included national and state education organizations, leading government officials, educators, and researchers. The goal of the symposium was to demonstrate conclusively that schools can transform their environment. 

Partners In Peace Education

Awarded to Walnut Middle School, Vikki Deuel, Principal, Mary Ann Richards, Counselor, Staff & Students. In Appreciation for Your Dedication and Extraordinary Vision Affecting Positive Change for countless numbers of children and families in your school, community, state, nation & around the world.


The Fourth & Fifth Rs Respect and Responsibility
Volume 12, Issue 2 Fall 2006

From Chaos to Character: Walnut Middle School’s Story


Vikki Deuel (left), & Mary Ann Richards (right) 
In 2003, Walnut Middle School (780 students in Grand Island, Nebraska; 60% eligible for free or reduced lunch) transformed itself from a place all too familiar to local police to a winner of a National School of Character awardthe only middle school recipient in the nation that year. In 2005, Walnut was recognized as an Operation Respect National Model School, one of five schools chosen from across the U.S. and Canada.

Purple Hands Project
Purple Hands—Hands and Words Are Not For Hurting Project ® (www.handsproject.org) is a national project developed to decrease the incidence of school violence and increase healthy relationships based on respect and equality among students. The Pledge encourages dialogue about all forms of abuse and violenceincluding name-calling, belittling, put-downs, and negative self-talk that can escalate to suicide and/or murder. The Pledge encourages “appropriate social language,” which we define as being free from obscenity and harassing or sexually demeaning comments.  We had a huge Purple Hands Pep Rally in our building to introduce the program to our school and to the larger community. Dignitaries from local government and law enforcement joined high school athletes, local pastors, and district leaders to get Purple Hands off to a rousing start. Everyone was invited to make the Purple Hands Pledge: “I Will Not Use My Hands Or My Words For Hurting Myself Or Others.”®  All students and adults making this Pledge traced their hand on purple paper, cut out the handprint, and signed their name on it for display in our building.

Over the intercom at the beginning of every school day, students lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Purple Hands Pledge. Students know that taking the Pledge each morning is a promise to take responsibility for their words and actions during the day. The other middle schools in our district have joined with us as Purple Hands partners. Local media coverage of the Pledge has helped our students feel tremendous self-respect as community leaders.

In addition, representatives from Walnut Middle School staff were invited to Chicago, Illinois in September 2001 to work with Chicago Public Schools middle-level principals and school resource officers on the “Kid, Cops, Counselors and Character” strategies which include the Purple Hands Pledge®.

Some of the famous names on the walls at Walnut Middle School include:

Governor – Mike Johanns
Secretary of State – John Gale
US Senator – Ray Aguilar
Congressman – Tom Osborn
NFL player – Irving Fryar (New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Red Skins)
NFL player – Tom Rathman (San Franciso 49ers, Oakland Raiders)
NFL player – John Parrella (San Diego Chargers)
Members of 2001 National Volleyball Champions from Univ. of Nebraska

In 2001, Walnut Middle School Staff Members were invited to be presenters to share their story of great success after implementing an anti-bullying curriculum which includes The Hands & Words Are Not For Hurting Project® at the following conferences:

  1. National Character Education Conference – July 12-15, 2001 St. Louis, MO
  2. Middle-Level Regional Conference – Omaha, NE – Oct 3-4-5, 2001 (Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska represented)
  3. National Middle School Conference – November 1-3, 2001 Washington, D.C.
  4. Klamath falls
  5. OSU Conference