Developing Student Confidentiality and Trust

In order for any student-led program to be successful, students need to feel a connection to the adults around them.

It is important that students can trust the adult’s investment in their voice, passions and ideas. It is equally important that they can count on adults to be confidential.

Caution: If a student reports to an adult about abuse, self or other harm, illegal activity, etc., an adult is required to contact authorities. Clear communication about the parameters of confidentiality to students is imperative.

Practicing Empathy and Self-Care


Adults at school play a very critical role in the lives of youth. With increasing demands on educators and school staff, it is important that there are deliberate actions taken to care for themselves. Self-care is necessary, so that staff is prepared to be there in the moment for students.


Empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately to the situation. It is seeing the world through another’s eyes.

Self-care is to engage in the activities that improve overall health including physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual components of an individual’s well-being.19

Conversations around Empathy and Resilience

Almost every book and movie below has threads of resilience and threads of empathy to tease out for deeper discussion. It is up to the supervising adult advisor to initiate these conversations with youth. You want to make sure that whenever their time is spent engaging with forms of media, there is a powerful “take home” message that they can apply to their attitudinal and behavioral choices.

Movies on Empathy

The Breakfast Club | Inside Out | The King’s Speech | Les Misérables | Lucas | Pete’s Dragon | Sling Blade | Zootopia

Books on Empathy

The Breadwinner | El Deafo | Empathy in Your Classroom | Inside Out and Back Again | Night | The One and Only Ivan | Out of My Mind | Same Sun Here | Third Thursday Session on Empathy | Where the Red Fern Grows | Wonder

Movies on Resilience

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day | The Blind Side | Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules | Facing the Giants | The Fault in Our Stars | Finding Forrester | Freedom Writers

Books on Resilience

The Count of Monte Cristo | Fish in a Tree | The Grapes of Wrath | Island of the Blue Dolphins | Of Human Bondage

Developing Support


Support and positive encouragement from administrators, teachers and staff are important for the success of a student-led campaign.

Room for the campaign in budgets and school time shows buy-in of student engagement and a concern for positive school climate. It is important that district and school-level administrators and staff learn what the campaign is about, what the goals are and the level of commitment that is required before any options are presented to students.


It is important that a group is diverse and represents the student population.

It is also important to think about students who have experienced bullying, their friends and those in the school that can bring about change. Here are some things you need to think about before building participation.

  • Students who have been or are currently impacted by bullying, whether they are being bullied, witnessing bullying or bullying others.
  • Students who should be included to make the experience a positive one.
  • Students in your school who have the desire to bring positive change.
  • Students in your school who might be able to make a difference.
  • Students in your school in whom other students trust.
  • Student leaders who will help build and sustain the movement.
  • Student leader who has an existing platform and is an influencer on campus and in the community.
  • Students who should be included that represent your student population.
  • Students need to genuinely care about supporting their school’s bullying prevention efforts.

More information on building participation.

Sustaining Momentum

One of the best practices in bullying prevention is to make sure any program, initiative, campaign or movement is not a short-lived effort because:

In order to realize higher rates of success, programs must be implemented and sustained over time.


Students will not invest meaningful time or effort in a movement that does not have longevity or a positive impact on their lives.

Below are some quick recommendations for keeping sustainability in mind.

  • Is there administrative and staff support for student-led initiatives?
  • Have you identified adults in your building who will assist you?
  • Who will take over if you are unable to support the students?
  • What is the process for official approval of a new initiative in your school?
  • Have you identified community support for additional resources? E.g., parent group, local businesses, local and state government.
  • What role will your students play in institutionalizing and elevating this movement?
  • What are key components of a successful student-led initiative in your school?
  • Could this initiative be linked or integrated with any other existing initiatives? E.g., school climate, character education, SEL or other bullying prevention efforts.
  • Have you identified future opportunities for students to be engaged in bullying prevention as they move on to high school?
  • Do you have team building activities that would bring cohesion to the group as new members are added?

Becoming Advocates

Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions.

The Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) has developed the Advocacy and Communications Toolkit to support advocacy work that can be used by students as a starting point.

This toolkit guides afterschool supporters on how to advocate for their programs but can easily be utilized in a school setting. It includes:

  • Fact sheets focused on Pennsylvania advocacy information, Pennsylvania After 3PM, and afterschool and youth development strategies.
  • Federal and state advocacy budget timelines.
  • Media outreach and tips to help effectively advocate for your program.
  • Sample communications templates to help advocate your program.

PSAYDN also provides several other resources on advocacy.