Transcript: Promoting Student Connectedness and Wellness Using Sandy Hook Promise “Know the Signs” Programs and SAVE Promise Clubs
On behalf of the California Center for School Climate (CCSC), I would like to welcome you to the session on Promoting Student Connectedness and Wellness Using Sandy Hook Promise “Know the Signs” Programs and SAVE Promise Clubs. My name is Timothy Ojetunde and I will be your moderator for this session. I am a School Climate Specialist with WestEd. The California Center for School Climate is a California Department of Education initiative led by WestEd. We provide free support and trainings on school climate and data use for local education agencies, excuse me, in California. The CCSC covers several types of supports including data use webinar sessions, peer learning exchanges around specific topics, and professional learning supports. We invite you to visit us on our website at ccsc.wested.org to explore supports provided to districts and schools across the state. Our website can be found on the Linktree in the chat.
In the keynote this morning, Jaleel noted the importance of meaningful connections between students and adults in schools. During this session, we will continue the conversation around the power of relationships in the context of building your school connectedness among youth. Our speakers will highlight programs that have helped transform school climate and improve student connectedness. The chat will remain open during the webinar and we invite you to interact with other audience members. We invite you to submit questions that you have in the QA feature at the bottom of your Zoom toolbar. Slide shared and resources mentioned are included in the Linktree being shared in the chat right now.
We have a great lineup for you today and I would like to introduce our guest speakers for the session. First, we have Abby Arisco. Abby Arisco is the SAVE Promise Club Manager for the Pacific Region of the United States of Sandy Hook Promise. As a SAVE Promise Club manager and her background in nonprofit management, she advocates for the importance of youth voice and why it’s necessary for adults to listen to it. She is also an outdoor enthusiast and loves finding the next adventure. Our second speaker is Blair Freedman. Blair Freedman is the West Coast Senior Region Director for Sandy Hook Promise, where she manages statewide and local partnerships and leads a team charged with the program delivery, sustainability and the expansion of the Know the Signs program. Blair holds a Master’s in social work and a minor in business administration from Columbia University. Blair’s career has been in the nonprofit sector fulfilling a personal and professional path for youth services and programming. Joining SHP early in its infancy in 2016, Blair has been able to witness and contribute to SHP’s rapid growth and impact across the country. Our next speaker is Kimberly Cheng. Kim is the Wellness Center Coordinator at Jefferson Middle School, San Gabriel Unified District. This is Kim’s seventh year as a counselor and she’s working to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. They’re coming up on their one-year anniversary of having the SAVE Promise Club. Last but not least, we have Sheila Hatfield. With 22 years of experience, Sheila’s currently the Student Services Specialist and SAVE Promise Club advisor at Mount Carmel High School in Poway Unified, San Diego, California, and on campus to listen, encourage and support all students. As a SAVE Promise Club advisor, she guides students towards positively changing school culture to promote inclusion and connectedness for all. Young leaders need to know that their words and actions do have an impact and can save lives. Sheila loves spending time with her family and taking walks on the beach with her dogs. With that, I will pass it to Blair.
Thank you so much, Tim, and thank you all so much for being here at this session. We are really excited to talk to you all today about our wonderful programs and how you all can bring them to your schools or districts in California. Before I get into our programs, I want to go over a few statistics and different results that we’ve had through surveys that have taken place in California just to set the page for why we do what we do.
That first slide and statistic is really that we know, and you all know better than anyone as the educators working within your schools every day, that there is a lot of reports of social-emotional distress. We are seeing suicidal ideation, a lack of optimism in futures for students. We’re also seeing a drop in connectedness, if you could show the next slide, and school connectedness among our students as well. On the next slide, you’ll also see that we are seeing a decrease in caring adult relationships as the perception of the students. Next, that both student and staff mental health needs are increasing as well as that demand for school-based mental health services in students. Then finally, we are also noticing that help-seeking attitudes and behaviors of their students, the majority, when they feel sad, stressed, lonely or depressed, the first thing that they’re doing and the most common is that they’re talking to their friends. But then we also see behind that, that they don’t necessarily know what to do.
Again, while some of these statistics can feel a little bit low, the purpose of showing them is actually that today we have a lot of great resources and tools on how we can turn these numbers around, how we can really start to intervene with some violence prevention programs to make sure that students are feeling more connected, that they know who to talk to, that they have a trusted adult on their campus. While we share these numbers, I want everybody to know and to have the mindset going through this presentation that these numbers will get better and that we’re honored to showcase some ways in how to do that.
Before I start talking about Sandy Hook Promise, I want to share an important quote with you all that really centers around how we view the work that we do. The quote is that, “When young people discover they can be agents of change, wonderful things happen. They start to serve in the neighborhoods, learn about public issues, create innovative solutions to tough public challenges, and eventually become the voters, community builders and leaders in our communities and nation,” from Alma Powell.
So, why this is so important to Sandy Hook Promise and the work that we do is that we are centered around this idea that youth can be our partners in solving violence. Sandy Hook Promise’s mission is to educate and empower youth and adults on how to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. Just a little bit of background about Sandy Hook Promise. When the tragedy unfolded in 2012, some of the family members who lost their loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary had one big question, and that was, how did this happen? How did this take place? What they learned from convenings and meetings with experts in law enforcement, threat assessment, education was that this act was actually preventable. When they found out and asked why it wasn’t prevented, they learned that just frankly, there weren’t the resources to go person to person, youth to youth, to teach them what those warning signs were.
That’s when Sandy Hook Promise said that that will become our mission. We will make sure that cost is never a barrier, but that every youth and adult can know the warning signs of someone that might be at risk of hurting themselves or others so that they can intervene before an act of violence takes place.
How do we do that work? We do that work through our Know the Signs programs, and I’m going to share two of those programs with you today. The first program is Start with Hello. Start with Hello is a K through 12 program and it’s all about teaching youth how to reduce social isolation in your school and community to really build a more inclusive and connected school. We do that in three simple steps: in teaching the students how to see someone alone, how to reach out and help, and how to start with hello and really break down what that looks like. What does social isolation look like? What are some easy tools that the students can use and also that the school can use as well? The reason this is so important is that we’ve learned that unfortunately youth who are chronically socially isolated are more at risk of hurting themselves or others.
This is a really early first step that we can take really early on too in their academic career to make sure that they understand how important it is to include one another and why that not only benefits them, but their school and their safety as well. This is a wonderful program that we do that focuses on building that culture within. We’ve seen some really amazing outcomes from this program. We have seen that it has built more connected communities. We’re seeing a reduction in bullying. It’s really fostering socialization in this upstander culture. Again, we’re seeing these new engagement levels that we really want to make a cultural shift from within the school, district, and community, and we’re seeing that with this program.
The next program is Say Something, and say something teaches students how to recognize signs, especially in social media, of an individual who may be a threat to themselves or others and say something to a trusted adult. Through this program we go through what are the warning signs that somebody might be exhibiting and how important it is to act immediately and take it seriously. A big part of this program is really teaching youth how to be an upstander, and also the difference between saying something and snitching, because we know that that can be a huge barrier. Snitching is saying something to get somebody in trouble. Saying something is getting help for you or somebody else. Another aspect of this program that’s really important is the say something to a trusted adult.
Like we saw in the slides before, students aren’t really knowing who to say something to or they might say something to one of their friends first. If we can really educate our youth on the importance of identifying a trusted adult in their life and how to actually bring that information to that person so that they can diagnose the situation. We don’t want our youth to diagnose it. We just know that they’re the eyes and ears of the school and that they’re the ones on social media seeing these signs, so we want to teach them what these signs are, and again, the importance and urgency of getting that information to a trusted adult.
Similarly, we’re also seeing really great outcomes that students feel like they are educated on what those signs are. Upstander culture is really big in this Say Something program. We’re seeing a reduction in violence, in suicide, cutting, and bullying, and also seeing a culture of more students asking for help. I also want to note that these programs also align with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning competencies. While they’re not necessarily considered primary SEL programs, they are violence prevention programs. They absolutely align with these competencies, and we even have different activities and workshops on our learning center that you can filter by competency as well if there is one that your classroom or your school is focusing on.
Program effectiveness and key takeaways — so we did a lot of research on our programs to make sure that they’re effective in our schools and communities. Through both of these programs, we have seen improvement in perceptions of school safety, more positive relationships with trusted adults, more positive attitudes in general towards school, and better perceptions of school safety and significantly fewer aggressive behaviors.
The key takeaways that I want you to have about these programs is that we tell the students and we tell anyone who is viewing our programs, schools are safe. Schools are primarily safe and we want everyone to know that, but they’re not immune. Just like our bodies might be generally healthy, we’re not immune from the common cold that might slip in. Similarly, school shootings and violence, they’re not inevitable, they are preventable, so we want to really help schools and districts build that immunity so that we can continue to keep schools safe from violence, suicide, and threats. We do this by, again, focusing on upstream prevention. If we can truly teach and build knowledge and skills at all levels, that’ll be critical to making sure that schools are safe, and of course, research has told us that the best way to keep schools safe is to know the signs of someone who may be in crisis and speak up, and that is what our programs aim to do.
At this time, I’m going to introduce my wonderful colleague, Abby, and she’s going to talk about the sustainability vehicle of our programs and what that looks like in schools around the country. I will go ahead and pass it over to you, Abby.
Thank you, Blair, and hello everyone. My name is Abby Arisco. I am the SAVE Promise Club Manager for the Pacific Region. If you were to sign up a club, you would be talking to me as a resource and support in your journey. Now let’s talk about how you could sustain those programs through our SAVE Promise Club, but first, what is a SAVE Promise Club? SAVE stands for Students Against Violence Everywhere, and a bit of the history of that is that it was created by a group of friends from West Charlotte High School after their friend Alex Orange was killed in 1989 by gun violence. So it’s been over 30 years that this part of Sandy Hook Promise has existed. It is a place for young people to show leadership, creativity and passion for protecting their friends, schools, and communities from violence before it happens. It is a powerful approach to preventing violence and victimization, and it is where youth can organize activities, initiatives that reinforce important lessons learned through Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs program.
You heard me say activities, but we also call those actions, and every action can reinforce the fours Es. But what are the four Es? The four Es are educate, empower, encourage and engage, and we educate our youth on how they can prevent violence. The youth learn from each other how to create an inclusive school culture of looking out for one another through activities, events, and projects that promote kindness and connectivity. We empower our youth to be leaders of change. Our youth are empowered with social emotional strategies that Blair had touched upon before, the knowledge and skills to organize and invite their peers to build that collective energy in their community and schools.
We also encourage our youth to be upstanders. We have our youth encourage positive peer influences within the school and community through shared violence prevention efforts, excuse me, and to share ways of inclusivity and connect with others, sharing their own unique voices and their own perspectives. Lastly, we engage our youth by joining in on violence prevention activities. Our youth can have access to the no-cost materials and resources from Sandy Hook Promise to engage their peers in meaningful violence prevention efforts within their school and community, but by also elevating their voices to organize opportunities like town halls or forums where their young voices can be heard.
Now to highlight some of those call-to-action weeks. The two call-to-action weeks that we discussed with you are Start with Hello and our Say Something Week. As you can see on the left side of the screen, there is a calendar there that shows you all those different actions your club could be doing within different months. On this slide, it kind of looks like a lot. It might feel like a lot, but it’s okay. If you begin a club, we have countless resources at no cost and that’s what is spread apart on this slide. We have something called the Math Monthly Activity Guide, which has so many different light-lift easy activities that can help you get started. We have a getting started guide. We also have an elementary guide book too, because we know that some things might not transfer from high school to elementary.
Also, I want to just highlight that I am a resource for you as well. I’m here to help and support your clubs, and you as a new advisor or a current advisor to get started, but also throughout your entire journey. I want to bring up one thing about SAVE Promise clubs. You don’t need to recreate the wheel. You don’t need to start a new club. If you have a leadership club, if you have a community service club or something similar, our materials, our club, our mission can be embedded into that already made club. Make it a little easier. Before I end my portion, I do want to introduce two amazing advisors of two incredible clubs. We first have Kimberly Cheng of Jefferson Middle School in San Gabriel, California, and Sheila Hatfield of Mount Carmel High School in San Diego, California. They’re going to share experiences with you about their clubs and what their impact is on their communities and school. Thank you again, and now I will pass this off to Kimberly.
Hi, everybody. What a great introduction. Again, my name is Kim. I’m the Wellness Counselor here at Jefferson Middle School. We kind of started the SAVE Promise Club last year because we were experiencing some fights and some threats and a lot of students having difficulty adapting to being in person again. We reached out to Sandy Hook Promise and they were awesome and did a great job in guiding us through what we needed to do to get it started. One of the first programs that we did last year was Say Something Week, which was really fun. Our students did an amazing job in planning the activities and setting them in motion. I’m going to stop talking so I can show you this video that summarizes how our week went.
I promise to say something because it’s not fun getting bullied.
We promise to say something because we want to keep our community safe.
I promise to say something because I want to keep my school safe [inaudible 00:21:04].
I’m Miss Cheng, and you can trust me because I care about you and I will listen to you.
Hi. I’m Mrs. Won and I am a trusted adult because I care about your wellbeing.
I’m a trusted adult. You can trust me because I care about our JMS family.
All right. It was actually awesome for Say Something because after we did that week, everybody started using the language, so everybody used the word “upstanders” and then we used “trusted adults.” That’s just part of our community language now. Now let’s Start with Hello. We began this school year with this program. We had students fill out certificates of gratitude that we delivered to teachers and staff, which they appreciated a lot. We had students make a pledge to say hello to someone new and we gave out wristbands and stickers, and up to this day, they’re still using the wristbands, which is awesome.
Next slide. I wanted to highlight some of the experiences for our own student leaders in the club. They participated in the Youth Leadership Training last November. They had a lot of fun with Abby and the team. They did an amazing job making it easy and setting everything up for us. Their positivity was really contagious. So a lot of our kids had a great time, especially learning the Seva Changa salute. Another highlight was last year, last December, our kiddos got to go to the LA Kings game that was hosted by the Sandy Hook Promise, and it was awesome getting to see them experience hockey for the first time with their families. One of them got to ride the Zamboni and the other one got to be on the Jumbotron, so now they think they’re famous. But I want to highlight these experiences because the club, it hasn’t just created an impact in our school climate, but also in our student leaders. They feel like they’re a part of something bigger. Actually, here’s another video of our student leaders, Lynette and Kobe.
Hi, my name is Kobe Koo.
Hi, I’m Lynette [inaudible 00:25:23] and we’re from Jefferson Middle School SAVE Promise Club.
The way the SAVE Promise Club changed our school culture was by bringing the community together and fighting for a cause in which we support, which is to create a more positive culture. The activities we had helped build communities outside of our school and have brought students together for a common cause. SAVE Promise brought spirit to the school. That’s something we didn’t have.
The activities I found most that brings a community together was the Say Something Week since there’s a photo booth with many people coming in and out. I also really liked the SAVE Promise Youth Leadership Summit that happened here at Jefferson Middle School Gym. I also really like dedicating a tree to the Sandy Hook students in December. Thank you. We’re Jefferson Middle School SAVE Promise Club.
I just love that video so much. It warms my heart every time I see it, and a little bit of tears in my eyes. I’m not going to lie. I love it so much. Thank you, Kim, again for sharing. Now that you have heard from a middle school, here is a SAVE Promise Club experience from a high school. Take it away, Sheila.
Thank you again. Again, my name is Sheila Hatfield and I’m a Student Services Specialist at Mount Carmel High School in Poway Unified School District in San Diego. I wanted to show you this picture that is a portion of what we call our Change-makers here on campus. These students meet regularly to learn about different things around inclusion and school safety, and then they develop avenues to build relationships and promote school safety on our campus and in our community as well. It’s become a big part of our school culture to have Start with Hello at the beginning of the school year. Our Start with Hello Week has grown quite a bit.
We have a very diverse campus, as you can maybe tell from this student photo. We have over 49 home languages spoken amongst our student body, so we do challenge ourselves to try to learn as many languages as we can as far as Saying Hello. We do this through signage and chalk art that we have around the campus. Students do learn to feel empowered to use their voice to discuss things like the warning signs, how to be an upstander, and knowing what and how to report concerns that they may have. This picture in the bottom left is from a homeroom lesson that we did where the students shared the warning signs that they could be looking for, both in person and on social media, and to be aware of how to deal with different scenarios and different situations. December 14th is our Day of Remembrance for Sandy Hook, and our students were making these banners with their painted hand prints and they talked about how they could keep our campuses safe. They came up with all kinds of tips that were then put onto the banners and put up around school on December 14th.
For our Say Something Week, we then built on that and created flyers that you’ll see in the lower right corner. Those are electronic flyers that we created in the same format as the banner, and it does show our PUSD tip line on there as well as a QR code to get straight through to our counselors if someone should feel a need. Those flyers are now up in every room on our campus. We also handed out the Say Something cards that we created, and that was real simple. Our Change-makers were just out in front of campus at the beginning of the school day and made sure that one went to every person who came onto campus.
In the picture in the lower right, you’ll see that we created some handprints. Again, we built on the banner activity that we did in December. The hand prints we were actually making all the way up through April, and it was where we were thanking our trusted adults. We had created a video that introduced our adults just like they had at the middle school. I love that Kim showed that as well. Then they created the handprints. On the heart it says, we want to thank you for being our trusted adult, and they wrote the name of the adult and a little note if they wanted. Then every staff member was able to make that tree in their classroom.
Students and staff engage each other to use their superpower. Here on our campus, we call that being an upstander. Again, a homeroom lesson slide that we had presented, if you see number three on there, that’s really a big one. I know that Blair had mentioned it earlier, that speaking up is not snitching, which is something that you do to get someone in trouble. It really is something that we do to protect everyone and to possibly save a life, so we promote being upstanders quite a bit on our campus. These photo frames are things that the students made, and they go around campus and get pictures of people everywhere and actually hand them a printout of those three steps there that are so important from Sandy Hook. Take the pledge to look for those warning signs. Make sure to speak up immediately to a trusted adult and to say something because again, it’s not only to protect everyone. You could possibly save a life.
Here at Mount Carmel, we really strive to make sure that everyone on our campus is seen, that they feel heard, and that they know that they belong. It’s what we call the Sundevil Way. With that, I’d like to go ahead and pass it back to Blair.
Thank you so much, Sheila and Kim. It is invaluable to be able to hear your perspectives. Obviously, Abby and I work for Sandy Hook Promise and do this work internally, but to see just truly how these programs can bring a true shift to these schools and communities is amazing, so thank you both for all that you do and for sharing that with us today. I hope after you heard from both Sheila and Kimberly that you are thinking, well, how do I bring this to my school? That is also why we are here today; to be able to share with you ways that you can bring our programs again at no cost to your school, your district and your community. The opportunity that I want to share with you today is called Project Cal Stop, and that is through Sandy Hook Promise has a partnership with the CDE, where we have this wonderful grant that allows us to bring our Start with Hello, Say Something, and SAVE Promise Club programs to schools and districts in California over the next couple of years.
This is our second grant doing the same work with the CDE and we just started it this year. The grant that we finished last year was the same exact scope of work and we trained a lot of students and a lot of schools across the country and we got really strong feedback that, for example, that the students and staff love the presentation and have started to speak up and say something when they have information that is pertinent to the safety and wellbeing of all and that the content of the student training is applicable to all my students. 100% of respondents reported strongly agree or agree, so this is just a little bit of the feedback that we got from our past work.
Now, what does it mean to participate in Project Cal Stop? Essentially we would bring both of the programs, Start with Hello and Say Something, to your students grade six through twelve. We have content available for K through 12, but for the purpose of the grant, we would bring the programs to your schools either virtually through a virtual live way through Zoom or in person. We have some budget for that as well. We would bring a 45-minute training in each program that really goes through the steps that we showcased today and dives deeper into really what these programs are about and how the students can take it forward.
As part of this grant, not only do you receive those free trainings, but also access to a Sandy Hook Promise project manager, like my colleague Dion. You’ll see his information dropped in the chat throughout, and Abby as well as a SAVE Promise Club manager. Through the SAVE work, you have access to in-person interactive youth leadership trainings for SAVE clubs. There are SAVE Advisor trainings so that new advisors or even returning ones can make sure that they feel empowered and properly trained to lead a club successfully. We share different monthly activity guides, newsletters, office hours. The neat thing too is that next year, as part of this grant, if you are participating, there is an opportunity to apply for a $500 sustainability management supports opportunity that will help offset some of the fees… not fees, but things that you would want to do with your club to get it off the ground.
Those are some of the key things that you get. Again, the main thing that we ask for, which I can kind of go over on the next slide, is we want to ensure that this is going to be sustainable for you all and not just a one-and-done program. What this would look like if you were interested is you would reach out through the contact information that you’ll see on the last slide and through the chat to my colleague Dion. At Sandy Hook Promise we receive interest. Oh, go back one more, Abby. Thank you. We would receive that interest from a school or a district. We would reach out to you all and really whoever the point of contact is at the school that’s bringing the program, and it doesn’t matter who that person is, we would share with them information about the SAVE Promise Clubs, and our first step would be to get that club up and running. Like Abby said, it can be an existing club, it can be a new club. We just want to make sure that is really set before we bring in the programs.
Then we would talk with the point of contact to see what your availability looks like. When do you want to bring the program? We would first bring Start with Hello. That’s a 45-minute training. We can do it in a class period. We can do multiple schools in a district at one time, so we are really comfortable being flexible with what works for your school and district to be able to bring the program to you all to meet your students where they’re at. We would talk through when, how, what, where. We would ask a few questions to make sure that our trainers are prepared, and we would make sure that you all are prepared as well to receive our programs. Then we would rinse and repeat for our Say Something program. That’s just, again, a general overview about what that process would look like if you were interested in participating in Project Cal Stop.
I will say, it is a first come first basis because we only have limited spots available. We are in our first year now. We have another year next year, so if you are interested, please do reach out to us as soon as possible. Per the next slide, if perhaps that’s not the right fit for you right now, there are still plenty of other ways to get involved to try us on and to get a little bit more comfortable with what our programming looks like. One of those ways is to register for our upcoming National Say Something Week, March 13th through 17th. Sheila and Kimberly both talked a little bit about the impact that it made on their school, but if you are interested in participating, once you register, you get access to all of the free resources, action planning guides and materials that can really help set your school and district up for a successful week and really start that process of bringing this program to your school. That’s a great opportunity as well.
If you have any questions at all about anything that we mentioned or other ways to get involved, please do reach out. Take a picture of our contact information on this slide (Dion Chavis, West Project Manager, email@example.com; Abby Arisco, SAVE Promise Club Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s also in the chat. We are more than happy to schedule calls and speak with you all, your teammates, anyone who you think should be involved about how we can work together to continue to keep our students and our schools safe. With that, I have about two minutes left. If anybody does have any questions and wants to drop them in the Q and A or ask, we can do that for another two minutes. If not, that’s okay too. Happy to take emails, chats, or whatever works best for you all. Thank you all so much for your time. Thank you for everything that you do to keep our students safe, and we hope to hear from you soon. Over to you, Tim.
Perfect. Thank you so much for your presentation, all of you. We really appreciate it. You received a lot of information, so we definitely urge you to reach out and to ask questions with the contact information that has been shared in the chat and also the information that was shared via the presentation as well. Once again, we genuinely appreciate you all for taking time during today’s session and thank you for joining us. Hope you have a good day.