Community Matters

May 14th, 2013
5-14-13The Kindness Bus Tour, like life, always unfolds just how it was meant to.
In researching the town of Sebastopol, California for my visit here, I never realized that Community Matters makes their home here. I had to make sure it was my first stop today. This organization’s program is in over 1,000 schools nationwide and is having a huge impact in stopping bullying.
Their Safe School Ambassador program is at the core of how they help students become the first line of defense. The description below is right off of their websitewww.community-matters.org

At its core, the Safe School Ambassadors program is an “inside-out” approach to improving school climate, one that relies on social norms change and the power of students to help stop bullying and violence. 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 under-utilized resource for positively impacting the crisis of bullying in our schools.

The Safe School Ambassadors program engages and mobilizes these bystanders, but not just any bystanders. The 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 “Alpha” 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. They participate in a two-day interactive training along with several adults who serve as program mentors. The training gives student Ambassadors the motivation and skills 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.

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