I met a boy last week at a middle school who is in the transgender process. Born a female, but identifies as a male. The teacher introduced me to him specifically saying that he embodied so much of what I talked about - kindness, empathy, hope. His name is Chuck and Chuck started one of the most simple but profoundly cool groups on his campus I’ve heard of yet. In his challenging time of transition, Chuck has been met with bullying and loneliness. He wanted to make sure no one else felt isolated or bullied in the way he did, so he started “The Family.” It’s less a group than it is a gathering - no formal meetings or agendas - but they meet in the same place every day before school and during lunch. Their guarantee? That no matter who you are or what you believe in or how different your story, you will be welcomed and loved and accepted in the Family. It’s a safe space people can go to and guarantee they have a place they’ll belong.
Here’s an excerpt from Chuck’s email to me:
“i wanted so bad to make sure no one felt like i did. All i require is that you are nice to the people around you. What its about is just having a safe place to be yourself and talk about what you love. We just meet in the morning, we’re open to everyone. The only paper documents i have are drawings people give me - this year a kid gave me a stuffed moose as a gift for helping her feel accepted. we meet in the mornings or at lunch. we are a family, no matter what, young or old, everyone is different, we all have a story, and to us, thats okay.”
What does family look like on your campus? Do students know they have a peer-driven place they can feel accepted?
To quote Chuck,
“We all have a story, and that’s okay.”
Houston Kraft is the co-founder of CharacterStrong. He is a professional speaker and kindness advocate who has spoken at over 600 events internationally. Student Body President in High School, Class President at Bowdoin College, Leadership Camp Staff for 14 years in Washington - he is a lifelong learner of character, culture, kindness, and leadership. He was featured in 2019 on BBQ Lays Potato Chips and his mom's lasting life lesson is "Hug like you mean it."