Harlingen Cardinals: Bringing CharacterStrong to Life in High School


Written by: Houston Kraft

Harlingen High School is motivated to make a difference and, between increased grades, reduced referrals, and an overall uptick in positive prosocial behaviors, they are off to an incredible start.

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Like any great journey, they will tell you that the process hasn’t been all simple or easy. In fact, it’s been a multi-year process to truly create critical buy-in and enthusiasm around the work. But from Imelda the Principal, to Joseph the Assistant Superintendent, to the students of HHS - there are key stakeholders from around the district who will tell you that the results have been worth the fight through the resistance.

For Harlingen, their CharacterStrong journey started when they saw our co-founders, John & Houston, present at a Student Council Advisors Conference 3 years ago. Veronica, the student council sponsor at HHS, went to a workshop and was inspired into action. In by-the-book implementation form, Veronica brought a small team, including Harlingen’s Principal Imelda, to one of our Educator Trainings a few hours away. The team walked away inspired and equipped to go back and begin to do the oft-challenging work of introducing something new to the full staff. The key ingredients?

  1. A Principal with the vision and tenacity to say, “This is what we are about here.”

  2. A passionate Teacher who is willing to take on some of the day to day work of implementation.

  3. A team of staff members who are responsible for creating a system of accountability and reminders to begin implementing the work with fidelity.

  4. An Assistant Superintendent who believed in the work enough to bring out the CharacterStrong team for professional development and continued training support.

At the beginning (and even still!), there are staff and students who weren’t (or aren’t) quite bought in. But Imelda and Veronica know that this work 1) just needs 80% of staff on board as a critical mass to move forward and 2) that this is a multi-year endeavor to change paradigms, habits, and norms on campus.

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We got a chance to sit down with some of these people and get their insight into how CharacterStrong has supported the great work they are doing as a school - both with staff and students. Whether it’s K-5, middle school, or high school, we are reminded often that this work is both 1) hard and 2) worth it! The older we get, the harder it is for us to change our routines and keep something like “kindness” relevant and engaging. But, as the educators and teens of Harlingen HS will tell you in the video below, “we all share this world.” So let’s work together to make it better!


 
 

About the Author: Houston Kraft is the co-founder of CharacterStrong - an organization that provides curricula and trainings that help educators more effectively teach the Whole Child and create positive and safe school cultures. He has worked with over 600 schools or events internationally to develop communities of compassion and character. His work has been recognized by the Huffington Post and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. He is a speaker, curriculum developer, and kindness advocate.