First Things First: Gaining Buy-In

The rate of program implementation varies depending on school and community culture, as well as the supporting community agencies. The greatest variation occurs during the initial phases, between when a school initially becomes aware of Sources of Strength and when the administration commits to its implementation. Much of the pace of approval, buy-in, and agreement depends on the school’s readiness to work with peer leaders, address suicide, and invest in a comprehensive prevention effort rather than a “one-shot” assembly style speaker.

 The process also includes the very real and important process of trust building and relationship building between the school and Sources of Strength personnel. Feel free to schedule a call with Sources of Strength staff to answer questions, address concerns and clarify the process with administrators and key stakeholders. 

Identify a Coordinator

It is important that the Sources of Strength effort has a Coordinator from the school level that will organize and champion the efforts of the Sources of Strength program. The Coordinator does not have to be a part of the mental health staff/support team, any member of an Adult Advisor team can function as a coordinator, but they do need to be well networked in the school and community. Please take time in identifying a coordinator who can be strategic in this role; like all Adult Advisors, it is best if this person is not “appointed” but rather volunteers to fill this role. They should exemplify the key values of caring, connection and positivity, in addition to demonstrating the good/great levels of skill as identified in the Adult Advisor Skill Set Matrix (see below).

A Sources of Strength Coordinator should be organized, collaborative, passionate, and have adequate time available to commit to this work. The coordinator is the hub of communication, relaying information among the administration, the Adult Advisor team and the Peer Leaders. They keep their finger on the pulse of the impact of the program, as the team continues to meet together, applying the messages of Hope, Help and Strength to their own lives, and then carrying out campaigns in the school and community. They will need to mobilize the larger Adult Advisor team to support the program and the Peer Leaders. During the program implementation, they will also serve as the primary point of contact for the research team (if applicable) and Sources of Strength staff and trainers, as they schedule training logistics, follow-up meetings, and order resources and materials, etc.

Administrative Buy-In

One of the key elements to a successful implementation of Sources of Strength is having strong administrator buy in. We have found that clear communication of expectations is essential. If administrators have questions or concerns, we want to make sure we address those up front. 
Please have your administration review and sign the below Administration Letter of Commitment and forward to your Sources of Strength representative. 

Adult Advisor Buy-In

We have learned over the years that having the right Adult Advisors really makes or breaks the effort. We want to be sure that we are getting the right people into this crucial role. Adult Advisors help coordinate the program and support the Peer Leader team throughout the effort.
Please review the Adult Advisor Skill Set document as you consider who to approach. We recommend at least a 1-10 adult to student ratio, but it certainly can be higher than that, especially in an at-risk/high-trauma environment.

A few key elements to remember:

  • We are looking for caring, connected and positive adults in your school or community. These are the people who have the “it factor” with young people. We have found that even though an adult can be Caring & Connected, if they tend towards cynicism or pessimism over Positivity, they will not make great Adult Advisors. Please take this into consideration. 
  • Avoid simply assigning the role of Adult Advisors. Just because someone is a school counselor or psychologist does not mean they have the necessary skills, passion or time to be an effective Adult Advisor. Adult Advisors should be excited and passionate about this work and have at least some time available to commit to the program. 
  • Think outside the box. Some of our most dynamic Adult Advisors are not mental health staff but band teachers, School Resource Officers, youth pastors, parents, media center staff and food service personnel. 
  •  While the time commitment for an Adult Advisor is not huge, it does require some level of availability. Typically Adults Advisors are expected to attend the 1/2 day Adult Advisor training and the 1/2 day Peer lLeader training. Afterwards, we recommend that the Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders meet every two weeks for 30-60 minutes , as they continue to play games and build relationships, share about strengths, and work on their messaging campaigns. 

We want to make sure Adult Advisors know what they are signing up for. Please have all potential Adult Advisors review and sign the Adult Advisor Letter of Commitment

Review Referral Protocol

Prior to implementing Sources of Strength, schools must complete a review of their protocol and referral process for handling a distressed or suicidal student. This includes processes for identifying distressed students, addressing the mental health and social needs of such youth, and tracking those referrals. Many schools and districts have existing best practice standard intervention protocols in place. If yours does not, Sources of Strength can help you to develop one. 

Please review the Intervention Protocol Guidelines and determine whether your school’s plan is adequate. 

    

Review
Sign and Return Administrative Letter of Commitment
Identify and Recruit adult advisors using the Adult Advisor Skillset document
Have adult advisors review and sign the Adult Advisor Letter of Commitment
Review the Intervention Protocol Guidelines and consult with Sources of Strength if you feel your plan does not measure up