Testimonials and Reviews - ★★★★★
Houston Kraft is the best motivational/inspirational speaker we have brought to our school in my 11 years. He is affiliated with CharacterStrong, which is a character development program and curriculum that began right here in WA State. This is the second year in a row we had him speak to our students. Both years he also did a student leadership workshop where he worked with 40 selected students in a 90 minute workshop. With our students he talked about kindness and love. He talked about how we can choose those actions and behaviors. He teaches them skills to be more relational. His message to middle school through high school is spot on.
What he is about is creating a culture of kindness and putting an emphasis on relationships and how our experience as people is shaped more strongly by our interactions with others than by the curriculum we’re taught in school (he does this without devaluing the knowledge we teach in school). In fact, he says you can’t have one without the other in life to be successful and happy. But, he also quoted several authors who claim that a typical school only offers students about 50% of what they need and that what used to be considered ‘soft skills’ (perseverance, communication, leadership, resiliency- to name a few) are the new ‘hard skills’.
The most powerful event for me this year was he also did a 1 hour staff workshop. During this he spoke directly to us all about our responsibility and provided a much needed reminder about Why we do what we do. He quoted research about our personalities being mostly established by age 6, but our moral character can be grown and developed if we teach kids how to do it. He even asked us to come up with One Word to answer this question: What do I want my students to FEEL and Remember when they walk out of my classroom? Even if you didn’t do an all school assembly, the hour with your staff would be well worth it!
Jesse Hardt - Horizon MS
It was great to have Houston back to speak and work with our kids. Our students enjoyed his message, "Make Kindness Normal'. Our ASB officers have even ordered wristbands with his message to give to our student body. Houston connects so well with the students. He is engaging and sincere. His message is simple and yet so important. Our students relate to him and are able to make the connection in their own lives. We always love having Houston visit our school and look forward to seeing him again.
Kris Henry - Harbour Pointe MS
I was driving into Seattle late Monday afternoon and was in the usual traffic snarl beginning around Greenlake. As I passed under 50th Street, cars changed lanes to go around a stalled van in the second lane from the left.
My impulse was to pull over, jump out of my car, run across traffic, get the driver to throw it into neutral, and start pushing the van out of traffic. Just the vision of that impulse caused some minor terror- the fear of judgment, the fear of invoking someone’s anger, the fear of being seen doing something unusual. I did not stop.
And, of course, this is exactly what our friend, Houston Kraft, talked about when he visited on Tuesday. What keeps us from acts of kindness is our fear. It is a fear, he says, we are not born with, but that we develop over time as we experience, suffering, pain, loss, grief.
I have been fortunate to have been in a six-year conversation with Houston. The actual talking happens only periodically, but it feels like a place of learning where vulnerability and not being the hero in your own story is ever-present. Each reminder deepens my own meaning making, largely because Houston’s message comes through stories of his own imperfections, mistakes, and regrets.
Kindness has become a bit of a guilty pleasure, as some poets and philosophers have posited. I am not sure why it appears that way to them- kindness seems practical and necessary in a complex, and, at times, mean world. I am grateful Houston’s reminders of my own imperfections and the steady progress I am making becoming a better human.
Scott Mauk - Edmonds Heights K-12, WA
This is the second time we've had Houston speak to our students and the growth of both the message, the speaking style, and whole package of CharacterStrong to support the message has just been phenomenal. I am highly recommending Houston to my colleagues in High School Activities and Administrative positions.
We had Houston join us on our second day of school this year. We connected his message to our roll out of PBIS in our school this year. His assembly set the tone and framework for PBIS / creating a positive and inclusive school climate. Additionally, Houston stayed and spoke to our staff in a special All Staff meeting after school. We don't usually have staff meetings on Thursdays and I was nervous that staff would skip it in favor of setting up their new classes (also very important). But I was blown away that all of our staff came and so many came up to me afterwards to comment on how valuable it was to get a pep-talk / reminder from Houston about the importance of building our relationships with students - that before serious learning can happen, we have to show that we love and value the students we are trying to teach.
Since having him speak our first week, we have now rolled out CharacterDares to all students and staff are able to have a language to talk to students about character. I'm so excited for how this has invigorated this whole approach to teaching our students and it is a perfect dovetail for PBIS work!
Johanna Phillips - Shorecrest High School, WA
Houston was an awesome speaker! Many of the students said he kept everyone's attention for the entire assembly. Not an easy feat in middle school! They loved the stories he shared.
The students are excited to continue some of the challenges he put before them.
Catherine Shapiro - Hastings Middle School, OH
Houston was amazing! Absolutely a talented and captivating speaker who pulled the heart strings of every group! I love the emphasis on sustainability and the resources that accompany the event. Houston stands out above many and I am so thankful we were able to make this happen at our school!
Jennifer Jackson - Clifton Middle School, CA
I can't speak highly enough of Houston and his impact at our school. In debriefing his visit with my students, they were impacted on so many levels. Not only was his narrative well put together and well thought out (Houston has mastered a full circle conclusion better than most authors!), the message was something they could relate to and take into their lives outside of school as well. Afterwards, Houston took time to meet with students who cried and opened up about how kindness has affected them. My leadership students are eager to carry his message - to live it and help others live it as well. Thank you so much for this visit and this message!
Crystal Stengele - Kamiak High School, WA
Houston was amazing! His message of kindness touches the hearts of kids in such a meaningful way. Thank you!
Ann McNeil - Centennial Middle School
Students relate to Houston and take his message of treating others with kindness to heart. Always love to have him come to our school.
Dave Peters - Tahoma High School, WA
August 30th was one of the best days I have ever spent at Bellarmine Prep! (And I have spent a few hundred!) Houston was outstanding in his address to our school community and he was "spot on" when he spoke to our junior and senior classes! We can't wait to have him back again to our school community! The students were so grateful as well! It was just a wonderful day for all of us!
Cari Harrison - Bellarmine Preparatory School, WA
Houston provided an impactful message on kindness which our students were able to relate to. He was able to bring real life experiences that the students were able to relate to and provide the foundation for these students to do more. Many of the 9th graders, non leadership students, have expressed that they wanted to continue to bring to light the difference of being nice and being kind. Also we have several staff and students express that they want to be that student who got up and danced---not be afraid to stand up and make a difference on our campus.
Leslie Phillips - Rowland High School
This is the 2nd year we have had Houston join us for the Jake Anderson Leadership Symposium, & I didn't think it was possible, but it was better than the first! I have received numerous texts from youth & parents of youth who have thanked us for having Houston share his powerful, inspirational, & deeply personal message of Kindness & love. We look forward to building upon this message next year, incorporating a parent/community coffee, &/or some of the meaningful curriculum Houston's developed into our broader system! Thank you!
Kristi Anderson - Orono High School, MN
Houston was everything and more we wanted in a Kindness Week speaker! He effectively discussed the importance of kindness with humor, honesty, and relevant examples, and he kept the students engaged throughout the whole assembly. He was a huge hit among the students and the staff members! His small group workshop was also super effective, and students continued to be moved by his examples. Houston was incredible and I could not speak more highly of him!
Ann Codiga - Scotts Valley High School, CA - Advisor
This message was sent to my secretary from a parent: "Hey Tina, just wanted to give a shout out. I heard today's speaker was awesome. Not sure how he ended up speaking at China, but Mackenzie gave him rave reviews!!" I only heard positive comments from staff and students continually since our assembly. We would like to continue on this journey of promoting a culture of kindness in our building and will be discussing purchasing one of the programs for advisory or leadership. Houston's message is so powerful. Every single person was able to relate to his message.
Lois Bowden - China Middle School, ME - Principal
I was really impressed by the way Houston was able to get the students attention, keep their attention, and deliver his message. It is hard to keep 600 students engaged for an hour but he did it and, as I scanned the audience, he had students from all different social groups soaking in the message. It is my hope that the adults and students leaders here can follow up and continue the momentum started by his presentation.
Myke Pace - Hockinson High School, WA - Educator
Students shared, "Houston was a two thumbs up. He was funny and entertaining with a great message. I did not get bored for a second with a guest speaker which was awesome". They also shared that everyone was laughing and having a good time. He did great at keeping everyone's attention. This morning I heard many students comment on how he made them think with a more positive attitude about helping others and not putting themselves first. I truly believe Houston will make a difference at HHS.
Beth Tugaw - Hockinson High School, WA - Advisor
Our kids loved what you had to say! I spoke with our counselors and they have been talking to the kids about what they heard. It seems like a large number of our kids really took to heart what was said. Houston did an outstanding job at having multiple stories tie together and he really hit home the point that kindness matters. The workshop was also wonderful! Everything that he has been saying and had the kids practicing was something we had been practicing in class and talking about as a StuGo. Also, thank you for speaking to both sides of the gym :) That was helpful in keeping people engaged.
Britni Michaelson - Arizona College Prep, Erie - Advisor
Houston did an excellent job for our campus. Our students were engaged in his message. It's very difficult to get teenagers to laugh and think critically these days, but Houston was able to do this. He created a challenge for our students and staff to reach outside your normal comfort zone and take opportunities to treat others with Kindness.
Geniel Moon - Murrieta Valley High School, California - Advisor
Having Houston come to our school was great! I sat among the students which gave an even better insight of their impression, which was great! The kids listen intently and made fun comments of how his message was touching them. The use of humor was perfectly dispersed in his talk as was the personal incidents that had affected his decision to make the world a better place! Everyone can relate to how unkind behavior has affected them and the reminder to be kind to others. Pretending to be the boy dancing in the cafeteria was hilarious. Fear of looking stupid stops us from fun activities that we want to try but just won't do it!!!
Rhonda Christian - Jenkins High School, WA - Principal
Houston was wonderful and connected with the students immediately. His stories were engaging that I like the way he would revisit the stories throughout his keynote.
I liked the workshop and compliment work he did with the students. I would like to use the compliment starters that he mentioned.
Michaela Donahoe - Issaquah Middle School, WA - Leadership Advisor
Houston's assembly was the best assembly we have had at our school. Houston was fun and engaging. Both students and staff were excited and impressed with Houston and his delivery of the message. The workshop was also a great success. Our kids loved it. I am very interested in the CharacterStrong curriculum and will be ordering the supplement soon.
Bryan Conrad - Horizon Middle School, WA - Advisor
Houston is engaging and his message is powerful. He has a unique storytelling style with a balance of humor and sincerity. His break-out session challenged out students to consider taking his message and putting it into action. I look forward to seeing what they will do next after his presentation.
Annette Damien - Chaminade Middle School, California - Vice Principal
I remember the very first phone call in December of 2012. I was booking Houston Kraft for a Martin Luther King assembly, a year in advance, and I had no idea of the impact that was right around the corner at Sedro-Woolley High School because of that one single phone call. After that first amazing assembly and an opportunity to get acquainted with Houston I knew we had to tap in to his vision and his unique gift of sharing it. We have had Houston back every year since that first assembly and for the past 2 years he has developed a 3 day anti-bullying program that he presents to the entire freshmen class each October with a follow-up retreat in February.
Houston’s message of kindness, compassion and acceptance has truly changed the climate of our school…it is not so much a task that we “do”, but a way that we “live”. Learning about how to overcome our own personal fears in order to willingly stand in the gap for others has made us better students, friends and family members.
Substitute teachers that have experiences in many different school districts report back to us on a regular basis about how polite and considerate our students at Sedro-Woolley High School are. I believe our students, staff and community members are all better at remembering that “everyone has a battle they are fighting that we know nothing about” and to treat everyone with kindness…because of Houston Kraft. I am so thankful for that very first phone call.
Nita Hodgins - Sedro-Woolley High School, WA - Leadership Advisor
Houston's message was amazing! Everyone can make a difference and make the world a KINDER place. He has a great way of engaging students and adults in the stories he tells and driving the message home. Every day at our school, the morning announcements end with Be Kind, Be Respectful, Make it a great day. I think Houston was a great extension of this message and we hope to continue to build to make our high school a kinder place.
Leslie Pacher - Sealy High School, TX - Advisor
This was the second year we have had Houston at Tyee. This time we were fortunate enough to have him all day, which provided opportunities for him to work with smaller groups of students in AVID and Leadership classes, as well as with our WEB Leaders. He made himself available at all three lunches in an informal way. Houston is absolutely delightful and we love having him here!
Susan Thomas - Tyee Middle School, WA - Principal
The day with Houston was fantastic. From his presentation to our high school students, assembly with middle school, and work with staff in the afternoon, all were engaged and left inspired. Our school is now experiencing a wave of R.A.O.A (Random Acts of Agape). Staff have been thrilled at the letters received from students written with specificity and the most genuine heartfelt gratitude I have ever seen. A few new letters appear each day and staff rush into my office to show me what was written. They are touched and then in turn seem to internalize the importance of spreading kindness and gratitude more intentionally back to their students and to each other. One of our classified staff members shared his letter with me yesterday and said that he had been at many jobs in the past and this is the first place where he really felt he belonged and was cared for. That letter spoke to him in so many deep ways that a student would take the time to recognize the importance of the guy who fixes the computers. When I received my letter, it was at a time I needed it most. The job of a principal is filled with incredible successes and challenges and on any given day one can feel that nothing is going as planned and there are more problems than time in the day to address. To get that little extra boost of gratitude from a student can really shift perspective back to all the progress and gifts that are right before our eyes everyday.
On this Thanksgiving eve, I wish to offer my immense gratitude to Houston and his entire team for personal and professional inspiration, for his authenticity and ability to connect with students and adults at all levels. The Character Strong curriculum has been well received and hopefully the benefits of his one day with us will continue for the weeks and months that follow. He possesses a rare gift.
Bethany Spinler - Bellevue Big Picture School, WA - Principal
Houston did a wonderful job of creating connections, identifying and building trust, and giving tangible ways to build kindness and love with 1200 student leaders in an all-day workshop. It was timed incredibly well spent and the kids left feeling energized and empowered to make a positive difference in their schools, lives and world.
Jaime Johnson - Monroe High School, WA - Leadership Advisor
Wow. Wow is all I can say. Having Houston be a part of the out Everyone Matters conference was just amazing. The students and I were in awe during his entire presentation and the day could not have gone better. I appreciate Houston's ability to mold what he is saying based on the group or event and I especially appreciate his sincere and kind demeanor. Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to host such an incredible person! I think everyone should have the chance to hear Houston speak.
Madeline S. - Los Osos High School, CA - Student
Houston was terrific! I have heard great responses after his presentation. We were glad to have brought him to our campus!
Kim Jackson - Big Bend Community College, WA - Advisory
An amazing and powerful presentation, and an even more impactful workshop afterwards. Twenty-four hours later and the school is still abuzz with his message of kindness and compassion.
Jim Schiechl - Mattson Middle School, WA - Principal