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Safe School Ambassadors lead the change

KARLA CONROY

KARLA CONROY

By By Karla Conroy PRINCIPAL ADELE HARRISON MIDDLE SCHOOL

The Community Matters Safe School Ambassadors program, and the Waking Up Courage Assembly, have led to a change in the school environment at Adele Harrison Middle School. The programs are subtle but they have had a significant impact on our campus.

Adele has run the Safe School Ambassadors program for 10 years, with approximately 60 students and four staff members trained each year as ambassadors and adult mentors. The program empowers student leaders from the diverse groups on campus and equips them with nonviolent communication and subtle intervention skills to prevent and stop bullying and mistreatment among their peers.

The two-day training gives student ambassadors the motivation and skills to resolve conflicts, defuse incidents and support isolated and excluded students. Ambassador Kayla Minehan pointed out, “Once you get all the skills, it opens your eyes to what is really going on around campus, and things that I didn’t think were bullying could add up to bullying. The training gave me the skills to make a difference in someone’s life and step in to help change a bad situation to a good one for that person.”

Ambassador meetings are held twice a month during lunch, led by the adult mentors and our school counselor, Laura Losk. These meetings provide time for strengthening skills and help sustain student and adult commitment to the program.

Three years ago, we also brought the Waking Up Courage Assembly to our students. This assembly is a powerful, student-centered experience that enlists, unites and empowers students to take a stand and speak up when they see bullying and mistreatment among their peers. This high-energy event delivers a compelling message to all students that bullying is not OK and neither is silence. It introduces them to youth-friendly language and skills students can use to safely and effectively defuse, deescalate and stop bullying behavior.

After the assembly, a group of our student ambassadors took it upon themselves to use information they gathered from the advisory lessons connected to the assembly to write our “Be The Change Upstanders Pledge” which is read weekly before our morning announcements. The pledge is as follows:

We, The Community of Adele Harrison Middle School, Pledge to Be Up Standers By:

U – Using our positive Hornet power.

P – Protecting our school campus.

S – Supporting everyone.

T – Telling an adult we trust when help is needed.

A – Always including others.

N – Now is the time to Be The Change.

D – Deciding to “Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk.”

E – Exchanging friendly compliments.

R – Respecting ourselves and others.

S – SCHOOL PRIDE ROCKS.

I believe that if one equips middle-school students with the skills needed to redirect and defuse acts of mistreatment and bullying, students will rise to the chance to do this and take on even more responsibility at their school. We have had significant decrease in bullying activities due to our own students taking action, standing up and speaking up about mistreatment. I couldn’t be more proud of the students at Adele Harrison Middle School, who have the courage to speak up about mistreatment of their peers.

I would also like to thank our PTO and our own Leadership Associated Student Body, Community Matters, and Sonoma County Mental Health Alliance Safe Schools Program, for their continued financial support. Without this support, it would be difficult to sustain these valuable programs from year to year.

Empowering students with the skills that will help them in the community, as well as at school, is what the Safe School Ambassador program and Waking Up Courage assembly have accomplished.