Technology-based Suspension Alternatives in Seattle

"After using it, I started acting differently."
Alex, Student at Aki Kurose Middle
School Academy

"Some get so hooked, I've even offered them a break, but they choose to keep on working. Some even come in on their lunch time and ask to use it."
Jennifer Ayres, PASS counselor at Aki

"After using it, I started acting differently," explains Alex, a student at Aki Kurose Middle School Academy in Seattle, Washington. The "it" Alex is referring to is Ripple Effects for Teens, a multimedia software program that helps teens improve their behavior and build social-emotional skills.

"I used to always have to get in the last word with my teachers," Alex says. "I thought they were being unfair and not listening to me." Alex encountered Ripple Effects for Teens in Aki Kurose's Positive Alternatives to School Suspension (PASS) program, which capitalizes on discipline opportunities to offer much needed education and counseling. During his time in PASS, Alex explored Relate topics on empathy, including the ability to see from other people's point of view. "Now I realize teachers have a lot going on in a classroom, and they're not being unfair, they're just trying to take care of things."

"It opens doors," affirms Jennifer Ayres, a PASS counselor at Aki Kurose. Jennifer works for Pioneer Counseling Services, a division of Pioneer Human Services, a Seattle area non-profit that has placed her at the school to staff the PASS program. Students are assigned to PASS for several days at a time. They spend about half their day doing class work. When they complete their academics, they have the option of reading quietly or working at a computer station on Ripple Effects for Teens. "Most choose Ripple Effects," she says.

Jennifer sees the range of topics covered as another key to Teens' effectiveness. "Many kids believe certain topics are taboo and thus don't talk about them. The extensive list-390 topics-normalizes things for kids, helps them realize they're not the only ones in the world with their particular challenge. This helps them talk about problems and issues they wouldn't have talked about before using the program."

For Ayres, Ripple Effects' unique qualities center on the program's peer counseling approach. "Adolescents like to learn from their peers, not adults," says Ayres. Ripple Effects uses proven strategies, but communicates them using teen voices and images, and multi-ethnic teen guides who make key points. The program also includes short videos of real young people sharing their true stories. "When teens in the Ripple Effects program say something, it can be more meaningful than when the teachers or counselors say something. It's also current and informative, and it uses the teens' language. The information is much more accessible to them that way." Alex says "it's like talking to a friend. Teachers tend to talk back at you, tell you what you should be doing, instead of listening to you. Ripple Effects listens."

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