In the wake of multiple recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, the national conversation about how to best make our schools and communities safer has intensified. One strategy that is research-proven to reduce community violence is social-emotional education.

In Santa Barbara, parents have a unique opportunity to enroll their 13-18-year-old children in a free school-based social-emotional learning program – AHA! Peace Builders – where they learn to express and manage their emotions, cope with stress, communicate well, listen deeply (even to those with whom they disagree), ask for and give support, and resolve conflict.

AHA! Peace Builders is currently enrolling youth in all grades at Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos high schools and 8th graders at La Colina, La Cumbre, Goleta Valley, and Santa Barbara junior high schools.

“In a time of fear and rage following yet more mass shootings in California, Ohio, and Texas, and in a time where challenge and difficulty exist at many levels, youth need to feel empowered to help create change,” says AHA! cofounder Dr. Jennifer Freed. “AHA! Peace Builders is a place for them to find their power and have their voices heard.”

Thanks to funding from Cottage Hospital Behavioral Health, national and local foundations, and individuals who believe in the power of youth to change the world, AHA! is preparing to begin its fifth year of AHA! Peace Builder programs at area schools. There is no cost to participating families.

Parents interested in enrolling their youth should contact AHA! Peace Builders coordinator Leonisia Caporal at or call the AHA! office: 805-770-7200 x 4.


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