Putting its 2019 Community Grant of $19,500 to work, Community Matters has implemented its Safe School Ambassadors® Program (SSA) in three Sonoma Valley schools. SSA is a youth-led and delivered program that trains students to stand up and speak up when they witness bullying and mistreatment, and to intervene in safe and effective ways to create a more welcoming, inclusive and safe school campus for all.
At Adele Harrison Middle School (AHMS), the SSA Program was inaugurated 17 years ago. Through community funding, including support from Impact100 Sonoma, the program is now ingrained in the school culture, providing a common language for students and teachers and a space for open communication between administrators and students. Currently, 41 AHMS students participate in the program, more than 10% of the school population. The Ambassadors come from different grade levels and social groups and help influence their friends to make good decisions. The program also provides leadership opportunities for Ambassadors. The Ambassadors help other students on campus understand common terms and language to identify mistreatment, promote SSA by teaching intervention skills in small groups, and host No One Eats Alone days and Be the Change Rallies.
Recently, an Ambassador described to the Program Advisor how he helped another student feel comfortable. The student was wearing their sweatshirt hood in class because they were embarrassed about a new haircut. The Ambassador told the student he liked their hair and empathized with them about how hard it is to come to school with a new haircut not knowing how people will react. At break, the Ambassador noticed that the student was no longer wearing the hood and felt excited that he was able to help the student feel more comfortable. Little acts like these happen regularly thanks to the AHMS Ambassadors, and the ongoing thoughtful gestures add up to make a big and positive difference in the campus culture.
The administrators at Adele Harrison have remained strong proponents of Safe School Ambassadors over the years because the program empowers students to be change agents. “That’s where we’ve seen so much impact,” commented Adele Harrison Program Advisor Kim Bellach. “Specific tools that help students feel confident empower them to be the voice.”
Safe School Ambassadors® is a program of Community Matters, a nationally recognized leader in bullying prevention, school safety efforts and school climate improvement, serving schools in 40 states and 5 countries. To date, over 100,000 students have been trained in 2,000 schools.