Center for Educational Improvement (CEI) Recognized by Ashoka Changemakers, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Share Article

CEI’s Heart Centered 21st Century Learning Project helps children develop a strong sense of self, belonging and purpose

The Center for Educational Improvement (CEI), a leading nonprofit organization that identifies, shares, and applies 21st Century innovations in learning, has been recognized as a “Children’s Wellbeing Pioneer” by Ashoka Changemakers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Ashoka Changemakers, known for its pioneering work of launching top social entrepreneurs around the world, and RWJF, the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, designed the Children’s Wellbeing Initiative to spark a unified vision for children’s wellbeing across the United States. The program identifies innovative programs that are improving children’s lives. Under the initiative, CEI and other innovators with promising projects and the potential to lead a new movement for children's wellbeing, will work together toward creating systematic change involving the wellbeing of children in multiple sectors.

CEI’s Executive Director Christine Mason, Ph.D. said, “Both Ashoka Changemakers and RWJF believe children will thrive when they are given the opportunity to grow up in an empowering environment that nurtures their crucial building blocks–a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose. These building blocks centered on wellbeing help children cultivate self-awareness, build healthy relationships, develop resilience and character, and make positive choices in their own lives.” Mason noted that, “The Ashoka Changemakers program builds on the world's largest network of leading social entrepreneurs to engage a global network that embodies the “Everyone a Changemaker” vision. Network members support each other, collaborate, and collectively achieve much more than the sum of their parts–which supports the connectedness of CEI’s heart centered approach.”

The Children’s Wellbeing Initiative seeks out social entrepreneurs who have launched original initiatives focusing on children’s issues in education, government, health, family services, and community development. CEI’s Heart Centered™ 21st Learning Project is its signature approach to social emotional learning. The approach focuses on five Cs—compassion, courage, confidence, consciousness (awareness), and community—to equip students with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, resolve conflicts nonviolently, think creatively, and overcome obstacles to succeed in the classroom and in life. Intentionally coined, “heart centered education,” the terminology avoids any bias, previous allegiance, or misconceptions that might be attached to the term social emotional learning and other older labels, such as character education and mindfulness.

With the advent of No Child Left Behind, many schools cut arts and even recess and physical education to push more rapid learning. The lack of space for teachable moments and the loss of connection with one’s cultural life can remove the heart from education. CEI works closely with a group of elementary school principals and principal leaders. That work has helped to strengthen the vision and work of the Heart Centered 21st Learning Project – a project that features a systematic collaborative process for principals to use when planning and building caring communities in their schools. CEI teams with ClassGather ( to provide an interactive tool to guide principals in creating local solutions and monitoring their own progress. “The work that CEI is doing allows our age of accountability (which is necessary and worthy) to join hands with the very real fact that we work with flesh and blood young people with needs, dreams, desires and abilities they may not have yet even recognized,” said Jason McCandless, School Superintendent, Pittsfield, MA.

For more information about CEI’s programs and services, visit Does your school have a training or technical assistance need you want to discuss? Contact CEI’s Executive Director Dr. Christine Mason at cmason(at)edimprovement(dot)org or call (571) 213-3192.

About the Center for Educational Improvement
Founded in 2010, the Center for Educational Improvement’s mission is to support and uplift schools through 21st Century learning and leadership. We believe every child, regardless of zip code, deserves to attend a great school. We are dedicated to translating the latest education research into practical solutions elementary and middle school leaders can use to “fast track” academic progress. Our efforts support school leaders as they work with their communities to create a 21st Century vision for their schools and a culture and context for students to become enthusiastic life-long learners and leaders.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Ingrid Padgett
since: 04/2011
Follow >
Center for Educational Improvement
since: 08/2016
Like >
Visit website