Asset-Building Power of the Safe School Ambassadors® Program

Through extensive research covering more than 1.2 million teens, the Search Institute ( has identified 40 building blocks (Developmental Assets) that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. Teens with more assets are more likely to succeed in school and care for themselves, and are less likely to engage in violence, early sexual activity, and ATOD use.

Our experience with the Safe School Ambassadors program in schools nationally shows that it has the power to strengthen at least 28 of the 40 Developmental Assets in Ambassadors themselves - 11 of the 20 external Assets and 17 of the 20 internal Assets. It also has the power to increase 14 of the Assets experienced by other students at the school.


Asset How it’s built for Ambassadors How it’s built for others at school
#2 Positive Family Communication As they improve their communication skills, and gain comfort seeking advice and counsel from their Family Group Facilitator, Ambassadors often report improvement in their relationship with their parents.  
#3 - Other Adult Relationships Ambassadors form positive relationships with the 5-6 adults in the initial training, and develop that relationship further with their adult Family Group Facilitator. As other staff at the school (e.g. Ambassadors’ classroom teachers) begin to notice Ambassadors’ positive actions and influences, they tend to “open up” and develop positive and more personal relationships with the Ambassadors.  
#5 - Caring School Climate Through their interventions with peers - preventing and stopping teasing, intimidation, and other acts of cruelty and violence - Ambassadors create a more caring school climate for themselves and others.  
#8 - Youth as Resources Ambassadors play a very useful role in the school, and are recognized for their contributions.  
#9 - Service to Others Being an Ambassador is an act of service - volunteering time and energy to do something beneficial that is above and beyond what’s required.  
#10 - Safety Ambassadors’ work directly increases the real and perceived safety for everyone at school.  
#12 - School Boundaries Ambassadors are part of reinforcing the school’s rules and consequences, so there’s greater consistency between the written rules and the norms of campus life.  
#14 - Adult Role Models Ambassadors experience their adult Family Group Facilitators as positive role models.  
#15 - Positive Peer Influence   Ambassadors’ friends and peers experience fellow students speaking out against mistreatment and standing up for what’s right.
#16 - High Expectations The program’s Code of Conduct sets high expec-tations for Ambassadors, which are reinforced by Family Group Facilitators in bi-monthly meetings.  
#18 - Youth Programs Involvement in the SSA program (e.g. through Family Group Meetings, trainings, participation on the Steering Committee, presentations to school and community audiences, field trips, recognition events, etc.) contributes to the recommended three or more hours of involvement per week in youth programs.  
#21 Achievement Motivation As they come to feel more valued by the adults and peers in the program and at school, Ambassadors typically become more motivated to do well in school and other pursuits.  
#24 - Bonding to School Year-end surveys reveal approximately 80% of Ambassadors feeling more connected to school as a result of being in the program. Through their attitudes, words, and behaviors, Ambassadors influence their peers to care more about their school and the people in it.
#26 - Caring Ambassadors’ desire to help others in nurtured and reinforced in the program, and they acquire skill to show that caring effectively. Ambassadors’ friends see caring modeled by influential people, so it becomes more “OK” to care.
#27 Equality and Social Justice Ambassadors encourage others to “treat people right,’ which often entails speaking up to peers who are perpetuating inequality by putting down another ethnic or social group. Ambassadors’ friends see equality modeled by influential people, so racial slurs and sexual harassment becomes less acceptable.
#28 - Integrity SSAs are encouraged to act on their convictions and stand up for their beliefs, and they do. Peers see influential students doing whats right when no adult is looking.
#29 - Honesty Ambassadors “tell the truth even when it’s not easy” by challenging peers’ hurtful (but often socially acceptable) behavior, and by reporting to adults potentially dangerous acts (e.g. weapon on campus). Honesty modeled by influential students makes it more “OK” for others to be honest.
#30 Responsibility Ambassadors take responsibility for doing their job - to notice mistreatment and do something to prevent or stop it - and they log their Actions.  
#31 - Restraint As they get their developmental needs for purpose, power, and place met in healthy ways, Ambassadors have less inclination to use drugs; also, the training helps them become more aware of the negative consequences of drug use. Restraint modeled by influential students makes it more “OK” to not use drugs.
#32 - Planning and Decision Making. Ambassadors make choices about how to respond to the different types of mistreatment they notice.  
#33 - Interpersonal Competence. Ambassadors gain valuable skills - empathy, sensitivity, friendship - and experience working with other people. Ambassadors friends witness and learn from these positive interactions.
#34 - Cultural Competence. Because the Ambassador group represents the cultural diversity of the school, Ambassadors gain experience and skills for working with people of different racial & cultural backgrounds. As they develop cross-cultural friendships of their own, Ambas-sadors break down stereotypes and help their friends to do the same.
#35 - Resistance Skills Ambassadors learn how to recognize and exit from unhealthy and potentially dangerous situations when they can not exert any more positive influence. Ambassadors help their friends walk away from fights and other negative or dangerous situations.
#36 - Peaceful Conflict Resolution Ambassadors are trained to resolve conflicts peacefully. By helping their friends resolve conflicts peacefully, Ambassadors teach these skills to peers.
#37 - Personal Power Ambassadors who use the intervention skills to protect themselves and their friends from mistreatment see how they can in a direct way exert control over “things that happen to me.” Furthermore, through periodic updates and recognition activities, Ambassadors see how the sum total of their interventions improves the social/emotional climate of the school.  
#38 - Self Esteem As they use and refine their skills, they make a difference, feel more valuable, and experience increased self esteem.  
#39 - Sense of Purpose With a greater role to play, in school and in life, Ambassadors feel more purpose in their lives.  
#40 - Positive View of Personal Future As Ambassadors see how they can influence people and their surroundings in a positive way (e.g. resolve conflicts, be seen as a leader), they acquire a more positive view of their future.