Youth Ambassadors Programs
Youth Ambassadors is involved with the reduction of the occurrence of truancy in public schools. In partnership with the City of Seattle "Be Here Get There" Attendance Campaign, Youth Ambassadors have created peer to peer mentoring programs at Cleveland and Nathan Hale High Schools. The goal is to return the truant student to school before they enter the juvenile justice system. Youth Ambassadors serve as peer-counselors and sources of support to truant youth and help them develop a plan to return to school. Ambassadors provide encouragement for each and give them a meaningful connection for their return to school. The goal of our project is to decrease the number of truancy petitions in Seattle schools and facilitate the reentry of students into school. Youth Ambassadors peer to peer mentoring program is a process that allows teens to provide early interventions with other students who are truant at their school. Prior to the school district filing a truancy petition (as stipulated by Washington State BECCA Laws) in Superior Court-Juvenile Division, the Youth Ambassadors volunteers talk with students, make an effort to identify reasons for the youth’s failure to attend school, make recommendations to the youth intended to improve the student’s attendance record, and support the youth in making a change in their attendance behavior. These recommendations will become part of an agreed plan to reduce truant behavior of the youth and shall include an agreement to attend school. They may include other requirements or referral to other school services, as deemed appropriate. Many truancy cases will not invoke the truancy court’s jurisdiction if the referrals and interventions are effective in eliminating the truancy problem.
- Listen to the truant student’s explanation about truancy.
- Talk to student about alternatives to skipping classes.
- Set up new attendance contract.
- Meet with student on a regular basis dependent on the situation to encourage and support student.
- Reflect on experience with fellow Youth Ambassador mentors.
- Collect and manage attendance reports and other relevant paperwork for each scheduled session.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
For two years Youth Ambassadors served as peer mentors in the Seattle Public School Truancy workshops. As a result of their participation, there was a significant increase in the number of truant students who had re-engaged in school as compared to the number of truant students who returned to school before Youth Ambassadors became involved.
The Youth Ambassadors Program has a unique and fresh approach to the serious issue of truancy in our community. Ambassadors come from many different socio-economic backgrounds and parts of the city. Youth Ambassadors was originally envisioned as a series of time-limited youth leadership activities associated with the Seeds of Compassion conference. The students were so transformed by their participation it was their wish to continue working together. Then in 2009 Youth Ambassadors received a call for help from the King County Prosecutors’ office to assist with truancy workshops where under Washington law, a truancy petition is filed in juvenile court for any truant student. Youth Ambassadors took on a partnership with Seattle Public Schools to serve as peer counselors for truant students and guide them through a truancy reduction plan. Youth Ambassadors served as powerful peer role models, improving the overall effectiveness of the truancy workshops. Peers can be a critical influence in a troubled teen’s life.
We’ve witnessed the strong impact of positive peer support. As a result of the Youth Ambassador program, 60% of truant students returned to school compared to 25% before the Youth Ambassadors involvement. The Youth Ambassadors form positive connections with students and provide inspirational support. The success of Youth Ambassadors involvement with the Truancy Workshops led Youth Ambassadors to work even further upstream. Starting last fall Youth Ambassadors is piloting an elective class in two Seattle high schools, Cleveland and Nathan Hale High Schools. The goal is to provide peer mentoring and support to students using the same basic principles of the truancy workshops further upstream.
Macklemore, the Seattle hip-hop sensation was so moved by the Youth Ambassadors he has committed to a full-fledged partnership. The Youth Ambassadors will play an integral role with the City of Seattle attendance campaign, “Be Here Get There”.
Youth Ambassadors is a small but growing organization with a tremendous opportunity to impact the lives of truant youth as well as Youth Ambassadors themselves. Simply stated this model works! We have seen that early returns on investment in the Youth Ambassador program are extremely high. We have already been contacted regularly by educators throughout the country. We have already make a difference in our own community, but with time and the proper support, we offer a chance for lasting and significant change by establishing a Youth Ambassador elective class in every high school across the state. This will take an investment from private funding sources since state educational funding has been cut significantly.
Youth Ambassadors is currently in need of funding so that we can expand our involvement in truancy drop-out reduction efforts.
Youth Ambassadors are changing the world, one truant student at a time.