Safe School Ambassadors® Program (SSA)
The nation's most effective bystander education program harnesses the power of students to prevent and stop bullying and violence. Since 2000, this field-tested evidence-based model has equipped nearly 60,000 4-12th grade students in 1000 schools in 32 states and 2 Canadian provinces with the communication and intervention skills to prevent and stop emotional and physical bullying and improve school climate.
Program Model: Elementary, Middle & High School
At its core, the Safe School Ambassadors program is an "inside-out" approach to improving school climate, one that relies on social norms change and the power of students to help stop bullying and violence. Student bystanders see, hear, and know things adults don't, can intervene in ways adults can't and are often on the scene of an incident before an adult. They are a critical and under-utilized resource for positively impacting the crisis of bullying in our schools.
The Safe School Ambassadors program engages and mobilizes these bystanders, but not just any bystanders. The program harnesses the power of the socially-influential leaders of a school's diverse cliques, the ones who shape the social norms that govern other students' behavior. These "Alpha" leaders are carefully identified through student and staff surveys. They are selected based upon specific criteria, such as: strong position and influence in their peer group, good communication skills, and a history of standing up for friends. They participate in a two-day interactive training along with several adults who serve as program mentors. The training gives student Ambassadors the motivation and skills to resolve conflicts, defuse incidents, and support isolated and excluded students. After the training, small group meetings of Ambassadors are held every few weeks. These meetings, led by the adult mentors, provide time for strengthening skills, support data collection and analysis of Ambassador interventions, and help sustain student and adult commitment to the program.
Learn more about:
- SSA Initial Training
- SSA Expansion Training
- SSA Expansion Combo Training
- SSA Refresher Training
- SSA Training of Trainers
SSA Enhanced Elementary Model
This school-wide enhanced model equips all the students at a school with the language, tools and motivation to treat each other with kindness and respect, and to speak up when their friends and classmates don't. A group of influential upper-elementary students are trained and supported to:
- notice mistreatment among their peers and intervene to prevent or stop it (the traditional Ambassador role), and
- lead a series of classroom activities at all grade levels, including the k-3, to build a foundation of social skills and relationships that support positive classroom behavior and overall school climate.
Delivered in three powerful days (two days for the SSA training and a third day at a later date for the Enhanced Elementary Mentoring Component for your veteran Ambassadors), the SSA Enhanced Elementary program includes training and presentations for program staff and administrators, and, optionally, a parent workshop.
Why SSA Is Effective
The Safe School Ambassadors program is based on a solid foundation of research and principles that have been validated for many years. There are some important ways that Safe School Ambassadors is unique and differs from other programs:
- It involves the "change-agents" by identifying and recruiting "socially-influential" students. Research shows that these are the students who determine what's okay and not okay and have the power to change the way young people treat each other.
- It is a skills-based program that equips students with powerful, nonviolent communication and intervention skills so they can speak up and take effective actions when they see their friends and classmates mistreat others.
- It equips students to defuse potential incidents in the moment, as opposed to conflict resolution programs that require a structured meeting that might be held hours or even days after an incident occurs.
- It provides participating students with structure and support through regularly-scheduled Family Group meetings of 7-10 Ambassadors with 1-2 trusted adults where they discuss their interventions, practice their skills, and receive support for their efforts.
- It is a sustainable model, a year-round program, which research has shown has immediate impact as well as lasting and measurable results.
Program Implementation Support
To help ensure successful implementation and sustained change, Community Matters provides:
- Pre- and post-training coaching support by phone and email throughout the program implementation cycle,
- Two-day training of students and staff,
- Program materials, including Principal's Handbook, Program Advisor's Handbook, Family Group Facilitator guides and student guidebooks. For multi-site implementations within a school district, we also provide written District Coordinator Guidelines and live coaching support.
- A wealth of on-line resources, including data collection and management tools, quarterly newsletters of best practices and timely reminders, webinars and videos, and an electronic help desk.
Learn more about the Resources Provided.
The Safe School Ambassadors program costs approximately $5,000 to launch at a school. This translates to about $125 per student trained (about 40 students and 6-8 adults).
Funding Resources: Click here to learn more about available sources of funding for this program.