Dear Readers: If your school could have a superpower, what would it be? If it's an anti-bullying superpower, you're in luck. I'd like to shout from the rooftops about the Safe School Ambassadors program. Masterminded by Rick Phillips, founder of Community Matters in Sebastopol, Calif., the program is indeed a superpower. It works like this: Take any school. Out of 1000 students, pick the 40 most popular kids from each clique. Add popular teachers. Put everyone in a room together for two days and train them in nonviolent communication and intervention. This blockbuster program has reduced bullying exponentially in over 900 schools. Yours could be next. Please check it out at community-matters.org or call 707-823-6159. --Lauren
Regina, 12: I became a Safe School Ambassador in fifth grade. We learned how to diffuse difficult situations: exclusions, putdowns, physical contact, cyberbullying. I'm now not afraid to stand up to bullies. What an impact on our school! We have stopped fights and potential situations. One example was when everyone started kicking a girl out of a game. Though I barely knew her, I immediately took her and we played another game. She is now a great friend.
Jesse, 18: Because of the ambassador program, I changed from being one of those bullies to a person who speaks out and helps others be happy and successful. Since this program came to Brockport, N.Y., there are hardly any fights. People talk about their problems instead of fighting. Upperclassmen now help motivate underclassmen instead of picking on them.
Some examples: In the locker room, two close friends from track were ripping someone who was overweight. I had to strength to say, "Hey! Maybe he's trying to make a change. Bullying isn't going to help!" Another time I sat with about six guys in the lunch room. An overweight kid named Zach was sitting alone and they decided to make fun of him. I told them to chill! I asked how they would feel if they sat alone? Now some of them actually sit with Zach and are becoming friends.
All this makes me see how people can change so quickly when the right person tells them off. For instance, my two friends from track have now joined me in fighting the bullies. There's a domino effect.
Omari, 17: I remember my first ambassador training. We spoke about fears, drugs, family. I remember the question, "How many of you have family members who are alcoholics?" Almost 80 percent of the room raised their hands, including me. It was shocking how much we all had in common -- which is what the Safe School Ambassadors Club is about. We are a family that helps others. Although I don't know everyone in the club, our family feeling is obvious at our meetings. We just gel together. If people formed groups like this regularly, the world would be a much better place.
To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit straighttalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628
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