The ESSENTIALS is a research-based character development and leadership enhancement program designed for educators working with middle and high school-aged youth. The ten focus areas in The ESSENTIALS series represent critical competencies for developing character and culture skills needed for success in school, extra-curricular activities, work, and beyond.

The modules in this series draw upon nearly 25 years of applied research and development in various K-16 settings, youth-serving organizations, the workplace, and diverse sport performance environments. Each digital module contains a PowerPoint presentation, facilitator guide, and participant handouts. Modules can be delivered as a stand-alone lesson by following the session script and Power Point, and also includes extension activities, the CHAMP leadership process, and an additional research paper to further inform facilitation. The modules can easily adapt to many settings – from a 15 minute homeroom or advisory period, to a full 50 or 90 minute class period and beyond.

“The ESSENTIALS program provides everything you need to teach students in a 21st century manner. Today the skills our students are learning are derived from The ESSENTIALS. There’s no way an administrator or coach would have the time to develop the package and product provided through The ESSENTIALS.”  Bill, athletic director, Iowa


The ESSENTIALSShaping Group Norms: This session teaches participants how to use the Compact for Excellence to intentionally establish the conditions needed for positive and productive interactions when working with different personalities, in different contexts, and pursuing different goals.

Prepare to Communicate: This session introduces the essential steps for preparing to communicate – respecting and connecting with others, identifying what one wants to achieve and avoid, and considering when and where would be the best opportunity to communicate.

Mastering Care-Frontation: This session introduces care-frontation strategies for communication to help one balance concern for relationships with concerns for goals.

Developing Growth Mindset: In this session, participants are introduced to Grow-and-Let-Go Strategies designed to help one manage stress and develop a growth mindset.

Mastering Goal Achievement: This session teaches participants how to use a Goal Map to focus on the key elements of the goal achievement process.

Attitude + Effort = Improvement: Attitude and effort are what separates those who maximize their potential from those who do not. This session focuses on the drivers and preventers of attitude and effort.

Putting Integrity into Action: In this session, participants learn how to use the Integrity-in-Action Checklist as a guide for thinking and action – especially when choices are complex and the pressure is high.

More modules will be released in the coming months.


The cost to license each digital module is $250, plus an additional $10 per student who will use the resources in the module. Digital licenses do not expire. Schools and organizations may use The ESSENTIALS resources with the contracted number of students each year at no additional cost in perpetuity.

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Interested in maximizing the utilization of ESSENTIALS modules? Contact The Ray Center to schedule a workshop to learn strategies for integrating your ESSENTIALS modules into your classroom, team, or school. Workshops can be customized to address the modules you order, and can vary in length to adapt to your schedule. Workshops can be delivered online or in person. Schedule a workshop today!


View an example of The ESSENTIALS Facilitator Guide.

The ESSENTIALS are designed and delivered in partnership with the Excellence with Integrity Institute and The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University.  

More than a decade ago the Excellence with Integrity Institute and The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, home of CHARACTER COUNTS!, created a consortium partnership to advance our respective visions and missions. Together, we pursue strategic opportunities in youth leadership, employment and STEM readiness, athletics, education, and organizational development in community and workplace environments.

The Institute’s main focus is on research and development of instructional resources, assessment solutions, and tools and strategies for organizational culture development. The Ray Center’s main focus is on coaching, training and expanding our collaborative implementation projects across Iowa and the nation.



The ESSENTIALS and Excellence with Integrity are trademarks of the Excellence with Integrity Institute.