A Grateful Mother Speaks About the Impact of Being an Upstander

May 11 2015


  • Kristin Haley, Guest Author
    Kristin Haley
    Guest Author

Moving to junior high brought a lot of changes for my son (and for me)- changes into a larger, more confusing environment, new teachers and new friend groups, not to mention big changes in his physical, mental and emotional character. I no longer knew every kid he spoke to in class or who ate lunch with him.  It was a daunting experience as a parent, losing that sheltered world as I watched him cross over into a place where I didn't have that feeling of protection. It’s hard to even imagine what he was going through.

When he came home one day with a permission slip explaining a program called the Safe School Ambassadors (SSA), and that he was selected to take part in meetings involving topics such as bullying, peer pressure and other related topics, I thought to myself, "This sounds positive and can only help."

Now, after two years of him being involved with the SSA program, I truly feel it has been one of the greatest experiences he has had in school. I have watched him blossom; I see changes in him that are not only school-related but team-related and peer-related.  I hear about situations that he intervenes in, and I feel so proud.

As a child who is still on the smaller side for his age, my son would never have stood up to much bigger kids in order to protect someone. Just recently, he told me about an instance on the lacrosse field.  A new boy who joined the team is known for being a bit “different” at school, not always fitting in with certain groups even though he’s a very nice kid.

According to my son, when team members were paired up to do passing drills, the new boy threw a wild pass. The boy he was partnered with swore at him and embarrassed him in front of the team, then whipped the ball back at him in a way that he couldn't possibly catch it.  My son said he not only felt badly for the new player, but he was also angry at his other friend & teammate for acting so cruelly.

The coach was across the field and didn't witness it.  As we know, most instances happen when adults aren't present, which is why the Safe School Ambassador’s “inside-out approach” is so essential. My son walked over and called this much bigger player out on trying to embarrass a new player.  He put this big guy in his place and told the rest of the kids on the team to act like a team and not “put down”. My son took the new kid and became his passing partner, and told him that he's doing just fine. And guess what? The rest of the team shifted their attitudes and started telling the new kid how much he has improved since he started.

I found out about this instance when my son walked into my room that night and handed me his phone.  On it was a text from the new kid... he wrote to thank my son for being so kind, and for standing up for him that day at practice. He continued to say how that was the FIRST time in his entire life that a peer had not only stood up for him but befriended him in front of everyone.

As I read those words on my son's phone, tears began rolling down my cheeks. I looked up and saw him standing so proud that he had stepped up in a situation that made such a positive impact on this child.  I asked him if he felt nervous in a situation like that, and he replied that he was glad everyone was there to hear it because even if it lost him popularity, they'd all know where he stood in his values. Not only did he not lose popularity, but rather he gained respect from the entire team.

The Safe School Ambassador program has influenced my son in ways that not only make me proud but also make him proud. The fears I had of him making wrong choices has decreased. When he told me that night that he didn't care what anyone thought of him for standing up for someone that needed it, I knew in that moment that he had transformed into a true leader.

Community Matters and the Safe School Ambassador program has instilled character and qualities in my son that he can use for the rest of his life. Thank you. Without question, Community DOES Matter!

Kristin Haley is the mother of a Safe School Ambassador who attends junior high school in northern California. For more information on how to bring the Safe School Ambassadors Program to your school, click here.

Stay Connected - Subscribe to Community Matters Newsletters


Connect with Us

Join the 
Waking Up Courage Community

Facebook Twitter YouTube Blog

Subscribe to our blog



Tag Cloud

zero-tolerance policy, youth violence, youth substance use, youth gang prevention, whole school climate, ways to stop bullying, waking up courage, teen suicide, teen drug use, teen alcohol use, teacher-student relationships, suspension costs and losses, suicide prevention, social-emotional learning, social media, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment on campus, school safety, school climate research, school climate legislation, school climate, school bus bullying, school bullying policy, school bullying, safer schools, safe schools, safe school ambassadors, risk management, rick phillips, restorative practices, restorative justice, post-election hate crimes, peer pressure, peer intervention, peacemaker, pbis, national bullying prevention month, monitoring children's online activity, mindfulness, lgbtqi youth, inside-out approach, how to stop bullying, hazing, hate crimes in schools, gang prevention, cyberbullying, columbine, bystander to upstander, bullying video, bullying prevention, bullying laws, bullying, bully, back to school, atod, adolescent substance use