Listen to the Student
When dealing with any student, it is always important to listen. Listening without judgment, without bias, yet with compassion and understanding is the cornerstone of the Safe Zone Ally Program. This step may take a long time and may not all occur in one sitting. Be sure to listen for clues and realize it may take some time for a student to come forward with troubling information.
Identify the Issue/Concern
Once you and the student feel you can identify the root cause of an issue/concern, then be sure to identify it. Identifying an issue or concern can be an arduous conversation, but is essential in assisting the student. It may be helpful to make a written list of all issues/concerns to assist the student in prioritizing their needs/wants.
Identify Resources Available
After identifying the issue/concern now you must identify what resources are available to assist the student. Please remember that the purpose of being an Ally is not to be an expert in everything and to “save” a student; the purpose is to guide the student to the experts that are available. Please feel free to utilize the resources suggested in your manual.
Discuss Resources with Student
After identifying the resource it will be important to explain the role of the resource. Students are often oblivious to the opportunities around them and are unsure about what campus resources actually offer. For example they may have heard of “tutoring programs” but are unsure of where those programs are housed. Remember you do not have to refer students to other Safe Zone Allies, and there may be occasions when there are no Safe Zone Allies in the desired offices.
Give a “How To” for Contacting the Resource/s
Often students are unsure of how to approach different resources. It may be helpful to give the student information beyond simple phone number, website, or campus location. Whenever possible refer a student directly to an individual and not just a department or an office. As stated above you may be referring a student to a non-Safe Zone Ally. In those cases it may be beneficial to discuss what information is “necessary” to share and what information can be kept from the resource. Remember the ultimate goal is to assist the student.
Outline an Action Plan
It is important that the student creates an action plan, with your assistance, which will serve as their guide to working through their issue/concern. This action plan should be as specific as possible. Dates and deadlines can often be helpful to students because it provides accountability. In fact the entire purpose of an action plan is to hold the student accountable for taking the necessary steps to help themselves.
Discuss Potential Outcomes of Plan
Once the Action Plan is developed, it is important to clarify what are the potential outcomes with utilizing the campus resource you are referring them to. This discussion should focus on reviewing the issue/concern and how the student wants to “fix” that issue/concern. This is basically a discussion of “what could happen” and it can provide “buy in” for the student to appreciate the resource. Ultimately this is a “check” to ensure the student is receiving the appropriate help.
Review Action Plan
Reviewing an Action Plan is important and it really provides a good opportunity to “sum up” the conversation you have had with the student. This is also a way to review the responsibilities now placed on the student within the Action Plan.
Contact the Resource
It is sometimes helpful to lay the groundwork for a student by personally making contact with the resource you are referring them to. Never disclose information about a student that the student is not comfortable sharing. In addition always tell a student your intentions to contact a resource. It is important to keep the student in the “loop” about your contact so they feel you can be trusted with their private information.
Follow Up with Student
Follow up is often the piece the majority of people forget. We have a great conversation with a student, provide them with resources, even develop an action plan, but we rarely check back in with the student. Follow up can take on many different forms: an email, a phone call, another meeting, etc. But the most important piece of any referral is following up with the student to ensure they have gotten the assistance they need. Following up often takes more than one contact, but is an integral part of the referral process.