For the past two years, Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center team members have been developing a student-centered program to engage students in Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center.
After swiftly exiting its brainchild stages, the program has given students myriad opportunities to connect with the Professional Development Center (PDC) like never before. The PDC Ambassador Program encourages Eagle Rock School students to participate alongside our PDC staff in furthering Eagle Rock’s national mission of re-engaging high school youth.
The students, known as ‘Student Ambassadors,’ receive extensive training and experience to effectively contribute to the Professional Development Center’s works, gaining professional skills and real-world experience in order to meet the needs of clients. And for students who participate in the program, they have opportunities to host visiting educators, the exciting possibility of travel to partnering sites and conferences, and more.
Taking a step back for a moment, in order for a student to become a student ambassador, they must complete at least two trainings and two activities (from the list of offerings below) that reflect skills and practices PDC team members utilize in their work nationally on almost a daily basis:
- New Student Tour
- Qualitative Skills
- Asset-Based Observations
- Leading Tours
- Student Panels
- PDC Travel
- PDC Greeters
- Leading Protocols
- Conference Presentation
- Estes Park Schools Assets Inventory
- Peer Interview
- Lunch Q+A with visitors
- Class Debriefs
Current student ambassadors who have dedicated an exceptional amount of time and energy to the program have the opportunity to apply to become lead student ambassadors. These students work alongside PDC team members Sarah Bertucci (Professional Development Associate) and Mia Stroutsos (2015/2016 Professional Development Center Public Allies Fellow) to set program objectives and expand student involvement.
This year our three lead student ambassadors are Courtney Coleman, Javon Banks and Chemi Lewis. Their objectives from last trimester were to have at least four students participate in each training, 40 students participating in student ambassador activities, and to have one student travel for PDC-related work.
These students are considered a part of the PDC team and are expected to uphold the following:
- Be on time to all meetings and trainings
- Act in a professional manner that represents Eagle Rock positively
- Be a steward of our national mission
- Refrain from getting themselves on ‘campus restriction’
- Be in high standing with all the staff on campus
- Have great participation and attendance in all classes
- Be involved on campus with other programs
Many students who participate in the student ambassador program host visiting educators on tours, eat lunch with them, and serve on student panels. They are PDC greeters during our Presentation of Learning, and bring out their most professional selves while performing tasks across the country. A few highlights from this year showcase four of our students.
- Students Chemi Lewis and Cassandra Zambrana helped facilitate a consultancy protocol at a statewide community-based learning workday in Vermont. They met with an educator attending the workday to better understand her particular challenges, and then led a breakout session on maintaining relationships after negative student experiences.
- Eagle Rock student Martin Araiza conducted assets inventories about restorative practices at four school sites in Rochester, N.Y. Martin reflected on his experience in Rochester, noting that he felt “prepared and confident doing this kind of work,” and that the student ambassador program gave him the necessary skills to do a good job.
- Lastly, student Javon Banks supported PDC work in Camden, N.J., at the Senior Thesis Project Conference for Big Picture Learning.
While participating in our professional development engagements, our students provide unique insight not only to our PDC staff but also to their own education. As a result, they are becoming are a key component of the work we do, and are fabulous contributors to hosting guests and creating positive changes in education systems nationwide.
As the student ambassador program continues to grow with the support of student leadership, we are confident it will become a sustainable student-led initiative. This means that in the future all recruitment and training will be facilitated by student ambassadors.
The best feedback we hear from students in this program is that it allows them to make real-world connections with educators from outside the Eagle Rock community and talk with people about their time here and their goals and objectives for the future.
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