First Things First

Gaining Buy-In

All Sources of Strength implementations are unique to the school and community culture and the support of partners and stakeholders. The beginning phase, between when a team initially becomes aware of Sources of Strength and when the leadership commits to its implementation, includes the very real and important process of trust and relationship building between your team and Sources of Strength. Please schedule a call with the Sources of Strength staff during this stage of the process with questions or concerns or to gather more information to share with administrators and key stakeholders.

Step One: Identify a Coordinator

Your Sources of Strength implementation must have a Primary Coordinator from the site level to organize and champion the efforts of the Sources of Strength program. The Primary 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 Primary Coordinator, but they do need to be connected to the site staff and Peer Leaders.

Please take time to identify a Primary 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 be caring, connected, and positive - the key values of the Adult Advisor role. Your Primary Coordinator should also be organized, collaborative, passionate, and have adequate time available to commit to this work.

The Primary Coordinator is the hub of communication, relaying information among the Administration, the Adult Advisor team, the Peer Leaders, and the Sources of Strength team. They keep their finger on the pulse of the program's impact as the team continues to meet together, applying the messages of Hope, Help, and Strength to their own lives, and carrying out campaigns in the school and community.

During the program implementation, the Primary Coordinator will serve as the main point of contact for Sources of Strength staff and Trainers to schedule training dates, confirm logistics, order training materials, set up support calls, and any other applicable communication.

Admin and Leadership Buy-In

One of the key elements to successfully implementing Sources of Strength is having strong administrator and leadership buy-in. Clear communication of expectations is essential. If the administrative or leadership team has questions or concerns, please contact Sources of Strength for support or to set up a call to discuss further.

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Adult Advisor Recruitment and Buy-In

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We have learned that prevention and public health programs work most effectively when adults and students work together. If we just train adults or just train students, it won't be as effective. One without the other lacks prevention power. You must have at least a 1:10 adult-to-student ratio, but it can certainly be higher than that. Many teams find a 1:5 or 1:7 Adult Advisor to Peer Leader ratio sets them up for the most success.



To bridge the gaps commonly found in prevention and create lasting change, we need to recruit a team of Adult Advisors from every corner of our school and/or community. A diverse Sources of Strength team is a fidelity requirement, not a recommendation. If your staff is relatively homogenous (with regard to race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, ability, etc.), be sure to recruit community members and adults with great kid skills from outside of your school staff to ensure that each Peer Leader can build relationships with an adult whose identity and/ or experience is similar to their own.



An Adult Advisor team should include representatives from different departments with various skill sets, roles and responsibilities, identities, and connections to students. These Adult Advisors should be volunteers rather than "voluntold", and they need to be caring, connected, and positive:

  • Caring: Your Adult Advisors should be caring, particularly with young people and their mental health and overall wellbeing.
  • Connected: Your Adult Advisors should be connected to different groups of students and have the ability to develop trusting relationships.
  • Positive: Your Adult Advisors should be positive, meaning they truly believe in the power of Peer Leaders to leverage their voices and influence to create positive social change.


The time commitment for Adult Advisors can vary depending on how many Adult Advisors are on the team and how they choose to share responsibilities. Below are estimated time requirements for Adult Advisors:

Pre-Training - 2-4 hours 

  • Identifying, recruiting, and inviting Peer Leaders can often take one to two hours.  
  • Planning logistics for the training (time, date, space, etc.) could take up to two hours.

Training: 7.5 - 12 hours (in-person) 

  • Adult Advisor Training - 3-6 hours 
  • Peer Leader Trainings - 4.5-6 hours

Sources of Strength Meetings and Campaigns: 20-30 hours over the school year* 

  • Meetings will be approximately one to two hours per month. 
  • Campaign rollout and planning could be up to two additional hours per month, depending on the scale and the number of other Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders. 

*not every Adult Advisor will necessarily attend every meeting or campaign, these hours can be shared across the Adult Advisor team. Keep in mind that Adult Advisor support and commitment is a key ingredient in program success. 

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Review Referral Protocol

It is crucial that every school or site implementing Sources of Strength has a suicide intervention protocol in place. If your school already has a protocol in place, please complete a review of your protocol and referral process for handling a distressed or suicidal student. Sources of Strength recommends you review your referral protocol in staff meetings as well to ensure it is up to date and that all adults in the school are familiar with the actions they should take if they are concerned about someone in the school.

Developing or strengthening a protocol for responding to a distressed or suicidal student is an important part of the preparation for Sources of Strength. If you would like support or resources for a protocol review, or if you do not currently have an updated document, please contact the Sources of Strength National Team.

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