SSA - Implementation FAQs
- How can I get the support and buy-in of key leaders and colleagues in my school and district?
- How much does the program cost?
- How are the students recruited/selected?
- How much time is required?
- How many students can be Ambassadors...and how many adults do I need?
- Who are the Family Group Facilitators?
- Can we train two schools in one training?
- Can we combine students from our Middle School and our High School in one training?
- Where should we have the training?
- How is the program structured after the training?
Show them how the Safe School Ambassadors program is linked to their mandates, goals, and priorities, such as academic performance and fiscal responsibility. See [Staff Orientation Outline] and [How Schools Benefit].
For detailed cost information, please see our Programs & Services Guide page. Launching the program at several sites can reduce the cost, so please inquire.
We recommend soliciting nominations from faculty and staff members. It may also be appropriate to ask students to nominate themselves and/or each other. The recruiting materials we provide suggest several processes and explain them in detail.
Those materials also provide a more detailed "profile" to assist in recruiting. In the most effective programs, the Safe School Ambassadors:
- represent the diverse age, ethnic, ability, and "interest" groups on campus
- are the "opinion leaders" of these groups, the more outspoken and charismatic students (some of whom attract "negative" attention)
Students and adults attend an Orientation that usually lasts one class period. The Initial Training requires two full school days (minimum 6.5 hours each). After that, Family Groups meet every 1 or 2 weeks for approximately 45-60 minutes. Additional training and/or celebration events may occur after school or on a weekend day, depending on the needs and desires of the group. In addition, the Family Group Facilitators would likely meet with the Program Advisor(s) for an average of an hour a month.
The Ambassadors' actual interventions require a few seconds or a few minutes. Ambassadors then complete a brief Action Log to help document the program's impact, which may require a few more minutes of time. Ambassadors may also choose to reflect on their interventions using the student Journals supplied.
The typical training can accommodate up to 30 to 40 students, provided that 6 adults participate as table facilitators. After the training, these 30 to 40 Ambassadors are formed into 4-5 Family Groups; each facilitated by at least one adult who attended the training.
Most often, Family Group Facilitators are members of the school staff - teachers, campus supervisors, counselors, administrators, or classified staff. At some schools, Family Group Facilitators might also be parents, therapists, social workers, business people, or other members of the community. What's most important is that the Family Group Facilitators have experience working with young people as partners, skills of facilitation and active listening, and a genuine belief that young people can make a positive difference.
Our experience (what we've actually seen happen) in 150+ schools leads us to question the viability and effectiveness of this approach, for the following reasons:
- if the schools are large, including only 20 students from a school of 1000+ students makes it impossible to include the opinion leaders from all the major groups and cliques on campus; there are more than 20 cliques on such a large campus. By not reaching so many of these groups, the program's impact will be greatly compromised.
- typical attrition rates will likely reduce the 20 trained students to 15-16, so the "reach" and impact of the program is further compromised.
- an Ambassador group of 16-20 can more easily and quickly feel overwhelmed and discouraged on any campus, but especially on a large campus. When Ambassadors feel this way, attrition increases, willingness to use the skills decreases, and overall program impact declines further.
- schools with this small a core usually find it difficult to attract other students to build the program in subsequent years.
Even in schools where students from these two different age groups share the same campus, this approach creates problems.
- given the very different intellectual capacities of these two age groups, a training that is appropriate for middle school students will most likely seem boring and childish to high school students; a training that engages the high school students will likely be too challenging for the middle school students, so they will dis-engage and miss most content.
- the social issues affecting each age group are usually very different. Terms and language used by older students can be offensive to younger ones, and can produce a flurry of phone calls from their parents who may not fully understand the context in which the terms and language were used.
If all possibilities for training each age group separately are exhausted, we recommend that the high school students be trained first. With guidance from adults at each age level, they can then train the middle school students. This training challenge sharpens the skills and deepens the commitment of the high school Ambassadors.
Whether on or off campus, the training environment should be free of distractions. If off campus, the facility should be close by, to minimize time lost in travel and allow students to catch buses and participate in other extra-curricular activities at the end of the school day. The room needs to have enough space for 6 tables seating 6-7 people each, plus enough space at the front, sides, and back for skill practice simulations and other activities. Room acoustics should permit people to hear the spoken (not shouted) comments of other training participants. It is best if lunch and snacks can be provided in the training room or immediately adjacent.
As students begin to use what they have learned, they need supervision and support, which are provided through Family Groups. Family Groups consist of 7-9 Ambassadors and 1-2 adult Facilitators. They meet on a regular schedule at one- or two-week intervals, for approximately one class period. It is recommended that additional skill training and practice sessions be conducted to enhance student confidence and effectiveness. In addition, the Family Group Facilitators meet with Program Advisors once a month for planning and collegial support.