From Safe School Ambassador to Middle School Teacher and SSA Program Leader

May 2 2017


  • Jake Dean, Teacher and SSA Family Group Facilitator, Middletown Middle School, Middletown, CA
    Jake Dean
    Teacher and SSA Family Group Facilitator, Middletown Middle School, Middletown, CA

Back when I was in high school in Red Bluff, California, I was a Safe School Ambassador. Recently I was reflecting on how this program had made a difference in my life, because in fact, if it hadn’t been for the SSA program, I would never have become a teacher, and I never would have met Nate.

Growing up, Nate was a fellow student at my school who didn’t have a lot of friends. He had excellent grades, but often times sat alone at lunch and during breaks. He was consistently mistreated by other students, and would never fight back or argue. He would just take it. I felt helpless to do anything about it, because many of the aggressors were my friends.

As I was going through the SSA training, I learned about the different ways that students mistreat each other, and what I could do about it.

I was thinking of Nate the whole time. Here’s this kid, who’s nice but just a bit quiet, getting made fun of just because he’s a little different. When the SSA training was over, I resolved to do my best to help him.

Two days after my SSA training, I saw a few kids make fun of Nate, and then just walk away. I went over and sat next to him, and using the SSA skill that we call “supporting”, I said, “Hey don’t worry about those guys. They treat everyone like that.” We continued to chat for a while, and it seemed to help him feel a little better. Then the next day, I invited Nate to hang out with me and my friends after school. And as they say, the rest is history as we’ve been friends ever since.

This was my first experience seeing firsthand the kind of difference I could make as a Safe School Ambassador. It was actually very simple! All it took was a few kind words and the willingness to reach out beyond my own comfort zone. Not only did I help Nate and make a lifelong friend, but I know I also helped improve the school culture… AND found my future calling in life as a teacher.

Now, more than 10 years later, I’m in the position to be a mentor and pass on my knowledge to the next generation of Safe School Ambassadors. As a Family Group Facilitator at Middletown Middle School, I’ve been able to see how much of a difference the Ambassadors make from a teacher’s perspective.

The results have led to a tangible change on our campus. I see students using the communication techniques learned in the SSA training to make our school a better place. I see great kids, who would previously walk right past mistreatment as a bystander, actually stand up and say “Enough is Enough”, making the choice to be an upstander.

I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a Safe School Ambassador. It seriously changed the course of my life in a good way. I’m proud to be continuing as a teacher to stay involved in this wonderful program, so that more students can wake up their courage and become peace makers as Safe School Ambassadors.

To learn more about the Safe School Ambassadors® program, click here

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