Strengths Movement Covers Ground in Education


Jenifer Fox, Head of the Purnell School in Pottersville, New Jersey has set out to bring together schools, businesses and community influencers across the United States to form a grassroots coalition to push for legislation that mandates schools focus on developing student strengths. Pictured above in NYC with Marcus Buckingham, Iris Chen from Teach for America, Janet Schijns-CEO, The JS Group, Peter Baglieri– VP of Global Alliances at EMC, Gigi Georges, PR, Glover Park Group.

In March, Jenifer brought her message to hundreds of people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Sunnyvale, Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, Dallas and Houston. Joining business thought- leader Marcus Buckingham on his book tour, Jenifer spoke to audiences in each city asking them to join her in the revolution to change the United States school system. Fox is a twenty-five year school veteran who has developed the award Affinities Program and implemented it at the Purnell School, a girl’s school. The Affinities Program is a four year curriculum designed to help students understand what they feel most energized doing. After developing this program, Jenifer met business guru Marcus Buckingham and found that others in the world were also trying to gather people together around discovering strengths. When Jenifer showed Mr. Buckingham what she was doing at the school he came to visit and found a unique program that is not yet implemented in any other schools. The Affinities Program is an original, organic approach for young people to develop their strengths using hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. Given the success of the program, Fox is convinced that America’s schools need to change and stop the sole focus on remediation of weakness and standardized tests at the expense of nurturing a child’s passion. Jenifer cannot do this alone. Send her your email and show her you support her. She will use those emails to petition lawmakers.

  1. Kelly Hodorek Reply

    I learned about your “Affinity Program” and the Strength Revolution on the Today Show this morning. I would like to speak with you about how to apply this method at my son’s school. He is autistic and attends the largest autistic school in the country.

    Children with autism often have only one strength and even considered “gifted” in that one area. Unlike “typical” children, autistic children may have multiple deficits which unfairly overshadows their remarkable “gift”.

    I, as a mother and an Instructional Designer, am very motivated at implementing a program such as yours at my son’s school. Having an autistic child has been a blessing in the sense that it has enabled me to develop an ability to see beyond a person’s weaknesses and focus on his/her stengths. What I need is process and skills to be able to develop and emphasize those strengths.

    Is there any way you can help me make that a reality


    Kelly Hodorek

  2. Kathy Short Reply

    Hi, I am extremely interested in your program. I have a son who has some issues with ADHD. He has been part of an IEP program since 5th grade and I have decided this will be the last year. The public school system hides behind this program and pretends to be interested and involved. They don’t stick to the plan and they don’t care or have the time to deal with any child who has special needs. I think that if the schools weren’t boring our children to death and bogging them down with ridiculous, monotonous, repetitive homework assignments they would thrive. Instead they perpetuate failure and lower our children’s self-esteem even more. I am not an educator, I am a parent who is frustrated and doesn’t know where to turn. My son will be a sophomore next year and I feel time is running out for him. My daughter will be in 7th grade and I see more of the same in her future. Our kids are still be taught the same things in the same ways as we were taught 40 years ago. It is a different world, and the schools need to change with it. I don’t see that now or any time in the near future but am encouraged when I hear about programs like yours and ideas like those of Bill Gates and a few others. Not enough. PLEASE keep up your good efforts and thank you!

  3. june darling Reply

    I’m with you! I have a Ph.D. in education and left because of what was happening in schools. We can give kids SO much more and GET so much more as a society if we switch our focus to identifying and developing strengths. I now work as a consultant and coach and do exactly that for individuals and clients. Let’s get it in schools.

  4. Sherri Fisher Reply

    Hi, Jen–

    Saw your name on the list for the Lawrenceville Summit and then came across your “new” news. Congratulations! I will be there, too and look forward to meeting you and sharing ways to bring strengths-based approaches to schools.

    Here are other things happening in the “Strengths-based” world.

    Flourishing Schools (, was begun by John Yeager, Dave Shearon and me after completing the inaugural year of Penn’s MAPP program. I also facilitate a special interest group for MAPP Alumni who are bringing Applied Positive Psychology to education. Dave and I have researched the unique strengths profile of teachers in an actual school district and John has researched character strengths and well-being among adolescents.

    Have you read the Positive Psychology News Daily? ( Authors are MAPP grads, PP researchers or special guests with PP background. It is easily searchable and you can find articles by topic. I usually publish on the 5th of the month, and John and Dave write, too.

    I agree that this work needs to be done. In fact, it’s essential!! However, if you have worked in public schools, you know how difficult it is to work outside of the box even when you spend lots of your time thinking in there. Independent schools are likely to be leaders in this arena. It’s awesome that your administration has been so supportive of you. Hats off to them :-)

    Again, congratulations and thanks for getting the word out!


  5. Kathleen Trewhella-Grant Reply

    We are a private Montessori school on 11 acres with a nature trail, outdoor classrooms, an art studio and a 100 year old farmhouse as the main admissions building. We strongly applaud your school and your “strengths” method and would like to be a part of this “campaign.”
    You are doing wonderful work!
    Kathleen Trewhella-Grant
    Director of Five Oaks Academy

  6. Karen Hart Reply

    I am doing a project for an education class in which we have been asked to develop the ideal school. I am very interested in finding out more about the curriculum involved in the Affinites Program. How can I find out more about it? Thank you.

Leave a Reply


captcha *