This is a collaborative drawing made by two high school Safe School Ambassadors and myself in Temple, Texas. For the last year, I’ve been a trainer for an amazing non-profit called Community Matters. Founded in 1996 by visionary educator Rick Philips, this organization makes COMMUNITY MATTER, crafting an evidence-based Safe School Ambassador Program that empowers elementary, middle and high school students to recognize mistreatment and transform it. I’ve travelled to Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Texas, South Carolina and throughout California to deliver a two-day training to students who are chosen by their peers as leaders. The teachers, who also participate in the training, meet with the students on a regular basis throughout the school year to support the real-life application of peace-making skills. I am honored to be a part of such an intelligent approach, which helps the students understand that the longing for belonging is the key to stopping exclusion and having the courage to stand up for justice.
Here is what high school students from Temple, Texas said about what they liked most about the training and what they learned:
I couldn’t believe the honesty and respect that we had for each other.
Just coming together and learning and becoming a group that is strong is what I loved.
I appreciated the togetherness with people that I typically would not get to know on a deep level.
I learned that I’m not alone and everyone has problems like me.
That the person who is getting hurt will hurt.
You can’t hate someone if you know their story.
The program shows us that we aren’t alone and how much of a difference we can make in our school.
It made us more aware of the internal battles our peers fight every day.
I learned to put up a putdown.
In order to help, you must first notice.
I learned how to be a ninja to stop mistreatment.
How to accept people for who they are and treat them how I wanna be treated.
The most important thing I got was how to stand up to an aggressor without being an aggressor.
This program has helped me a lot to be strong and ignore the people who bring me down. Thank you.
It was life-changing.
I hope this program thrives. I met new people I probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for this program.
I really love this training to be an ambassador.
I’m so filled with knowledge and tools – I’m ready to take it to the world.
I wish everyone could do this program and show how they can use their skills positively.
I’ve changed in just two days.
When was the last time you heard students so deeply engaged in their learning? Empowering youth with emotional intelligence and impact is how we will beat the odds.