The Safe School Ambassadors® Program (SSA) is an evidence-based program that harnesses the power of students to prevent and stop bullying and mistreatment.
The SSA Program is a student-centered model that educates diverse social leaders with the skills to prevent and reduce bullying. It is the nation’s most effective bystander education program.
The Safe School Ambassadors® Program relies on the “inside-out” approach to improving school climate. 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 necessary resource for positively impacting the crisis of bullying in our schools.
The Safe School Ambassadors® 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 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.
The recruited students participate in a two-day interactive training along with several adults who serve as program mentors. The training gives student Ambassadors the skills and tools 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.
80% of trained Ambassadors report a gain in confidence and competence in their ability to intervene and speak up when they witness bullying, harassment and cyber-bullying in their school.
The Safe School Ambassadors® Program is Effective
The Safe School Ambassadors® Program is based on a solid foundation of research and principles that have been validated for many years. How SSA works to provide a foundation for bullying prevention:
- Socially influential students are identified and engaged. Research shows that these students determine what is acceptable and not, 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 with skills 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 meetings of 7-10 Ambassadors with 1-2 Program Advisors, where they discuss their interventions, practice their skills, and receive support for their efforts.
- It is a sustainable model and a year-round program; research has shown an immediate impact as well as lasting and measurable results.
- Highly skilled trainers are deployed to conduct the two-day trainings.
The SSA Program is most effective when implemented over a 3-year time frame, which allows it to develop strong roots that anchor it firmly into school culture and practice. After the first three years of Community Matters providing the SSA Training, schools are provided the opportunity to move into a Training of the Trainer (TOT) model. When schools move to the TOT, Community Matters partners with the school to support the program in a long-term sustainable way. With this approach, the SSA Program and the premises on which it stands, become embedded into the school practices as a way of thinking, communicating and behaving.
“Our children are our future. It’s part of our jobs as public officials, educators, and parents to help ensure that our children grow up to respect the rights of others. The Safe School Ambassadors Program will help to change the environment in our schools, so that incidents of bullying and other inappropriate behavior are reduced. Through the program, we can begin to create a generation of young people who treat others with kindness, dignity, and respect.” – David Hoovler, Orange County District Attorney