We are in the midst of our fourth year of operating a district wide Safe School Ambassador program. In my opinion, all districts should adopt an anti-bullying program, whether it is the SSA program or a different program. RBUSD has embraced the SSA program developed by Community Matters and it has been a great addition to the students of our school district. Every year we have over 400 students receive a powerful two day training to introduce them to the SSA program. Year by year these students are moving through the grade levels from elementary, to middle, and then to high school. Our students begin to learn about the effects of bullying and what they can do to help. Many students no longer feel hopeless and helpless to end the cycle of bullying. Students are given tools to respond to bullying that they can use throughout their lives. For those of you who may be contemplating adopting the SSA program I would say the following: take action, do not wait until an extreme incident occurs in your district, do the right thing, and do not be a bystander.
The Safe School Ambassadors Program has become part of the foundation of our Safe Schools Initiative. Over the past 8 years, we have expanded the program to almost all of our middle and high schools. The student approach has lead to some wonderful outcomes as kids begin to really take on concern for their peers. As the district coordinator for the program, I continue to be both a support and an advocate for the SSA Program.
As a County Office of Education Prevention Programs Coordinator it has been my honor to work closely with Community Matters staff for almost two decades. From Community Matters founder Rick Phillips to all of the trainers and staff, we have always found their level of professionalism and support to be of the highest caliber. We have engaged with Community Matters to do the 24 Hour Relay Challenge to support youth development programs like peer helpers, Friday Night Live and Safe School Ambassadors.
For over 10 years we have worked closely with Community Matters staff and trainers to do initial training sessions and follow up support for the Safe School Ambassadors program, including a close partnership to conduct training of trainers for a group of local SSA trainers. The Community Matters staff are always helpful, friendly and fully engaged to offer support for our school safety efforts. This collaborative partnership has truly helped us to engage youth as leaders to keep their schools safe.
The Community Matters Safe School Ambassadors program has been an integral part of our school district's comprehensive diversity awareness initiative. Started at one of our schools in 2006, the successful program is now at eleven of our sites. CM has supported our efforts by providing trainers, instructional materials and refresher workshops. Our District has received multiple regional and State awards for its diversity and anti-bullying efforts, and CM has been a major partner with us.
Community Matters Safe School Ambassadors Program was introduced to our school district four years ago in one school. Today we have it in 21 schools. Their program is unique and innovative. Their facilitators are extremely talented and engage students and staff with skill and enthusiasm. This is not your standard Power Point presentation with a handout. This is a well-designed, interactive two-day whirlwind that will change the lives of many of your students. Ask them to visit a training session. You will want it in your school!
In October 2012 as part of our regional "Anti-bullying" programs with schools, the representatives of Community Matters presented to our local representatives. Their "common sense" and methodical approach was well received and at least two of our Western Pennsylvania schools are interested to hear more!
In October of 2012, I had the pleasure of hosting a Safe Schools Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This conference was strategically aligned with National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month and National Cyber Security Month. My overarching goal was to provide conference attendees with Subject Matter Experts from the Public, Private and Non-Profit Sectors, to create new levels of awareness and potential solutions to the growing epidemic of bullying in schools, homes and in the workplace .
After intense research and thoughtful consideration, I decided to contact Community Matters to see if they would be willing to serve as a representative from the Non-Profit sector. In working collaboratively with William Grace Frost (Director of Strategic Operations - Community Matters) I discussed the need to secure a speaker from their Instructor Cadre. In planning this conference, I knew I wanted one of the presenters to share insight about the "Financial Impacts of Bullying", which is rarely discussed. I was pleasantly suprised to hear that Rick Phillips (Founder and Executive Director), was willing to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast (greater than 2500 miles), and would underwrite the costs of travel and lodging to support this effort. That type of dedication in the provision of community outreach is exemplary of the pearls of wisdom shared by Ghandi ... "Be the change that you wish to see in this world". Some Non-Profits "write" a mission statement, Community Matters - lives their mission.
Community Matters is a solutions based organization, which continues to have a positive impact throughout the United States and beyond. The entire team at Community Matters works tirelessly to promote the mission and goals of "their" organization. This is evidenced through their passion, dedication and committment in their ongoing develpment of strategic initiatives and community outreach which serves to change the world in which we live.
Community Matters' cost effective proven programs create a fundamental shift that is so necessary in our culture: inspiring young people to stand up against violence and abusive behavior whenever they see it taking place. The organization has an innovative approach, working with alpha students from every social "clique" so that impacts of the program diffuse through the entire school population from the inside-out, that is, starting with students. The whole school climate shifts to become safer and more welcoming for all, with significantly reduced suspensions, abusive incidents, and resulting costs.
I've worked as Executive Director of an arts non-profit doing music outreach to K-12 students, and currently work extensively with another successful non-profit focused on teen leadership. I've seen the huge difference it makes to reach young people with a well-honed life-affirming message. Community Matters delivers life-changing impacts that transform students into leaders and peacemakers for the rest of their lives.
Community Matters represents a critically important initiative to provide real and sustainable programs designed to mitigate bullying and violence in our schools. This "inside-out" approach is without question the best, and I think, only viable and feasible manner in which we can hope to truly impact significant numbers of our nation's children and public education institutions. It enables kids to impact the essential culture of their schools by empowering their natural inclination to step up and "do the right thing", exercising with courage their natural sense of fairness and equity. What we desperately need now is the will of adult leadership to provide the meager intellectual and financial support to replicate the growing number of successful Safe School Ambassador programs across the country.
As a risk managment services provider to hundreds of school districts across the Country, I have encountered numerous programs designed to positivley impact school violence. Sadly many turned out to be nothing more than a revenue stream for the provider. Community Matters and the Safe School Ambassadors program stand out as highly effective student centered solutions that are incredibly affordable. Simply put Safe Schools Ambassadors empoers our children to be the solution to school violence.