Anti-Cyberbully Service Adopted by 100 Schools in 100 Days

AscentiveCyber safety news from Ascentive

SchoolMessenger today announced that demand for Talk About It®, its anonymous communication service, has been strong since the company’s official launch in January. Over the last 100 days, more than 100 schools have signed up for the service, adding tens of thousands of new students to a user base that already exceeds more than 300,000. A partial list includes: Birmingham City Schools (AL), Food and Finance High School (NY), Irving Independent School District (TX), Mobile County Public Schools (AL), Modoc Joint Unified School District (CA), Montgomery County Public Schools (VA) and Mt. Juliet High School (TN).

Originally launched in 2005, and currently in use by more than 300,000 students, Talk About It is the first and only anonymous communication service that allows students to ‘speak up’ by engaging in text or online messaging with trusted school staff members when on-campus threats, cyberbullying or other concerns occur which warrant attention. Using electronic communications, which are largely ubiquitous among today’s students, reduces the stigma of being seen reaching out to a counselor or faculty member or ‘snitching’ on a fellow student. Schools and districts find it provides students an effective way to break the ‘code of silence’ and initiate a confidential, two-way dialogue that can lead to immediate and actionable results.

“Giving students a comfortable way to communicate with teachers, counselors and administrators is vital to the safe, secure and productive learning environment we want to have in our schools,” said Dr. Dana T. Bedden, Superintendent of Schools for Irving Independent School District, which serves more than 34,000 students in 38 schools and learning centers in Texas. “If students don’t report an issue, then it’s likely to continue being an issue. With Talk About It, students can maintain their anonymity and feel confident that someone will be alerted, listen and then help resolve any problems or concerns.”

“We especially liked the idea of communicating with students in the way they communicate with each other, which is through text and online messaging,” said Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent of the Birmingham City Schools, which serves 25,000 students in 51 schools in Alabama. “Allowing them to anonymously communicate with an adult they trust will make them more likely to report things that trouble them.”

“Talk About It is a remarkable and unique tool that gives students an outlet for sharing their concerns without fear,” said David K. Akridge, Executive Manager of Information Technology for Mobile County Public School System. MCPSS is the largest public school system in the state, serving over 63,000 students in more than 100 schools and facilities across Mobile County.

“We are excited about the adoption of the Talk About It program as it will allow our staff to reach our students in the technology world — which is where they live — in order to engage in effective conversations with them,” said Mike Martin, Superintendent, Modoc Joint Unified School District, which is located in the northeast corner of California. “A top priority for us is a safe learning and working environment and we feel confident that the service will assist us in addressing this high priority.”

“In this time of high profile bullying incidents, Talk About It delivers an ideal means of communicating with anonymity, comfort and safety where our student body can feel free to speak out,” said Roger Turgeon, principal, Food and Finance High School in New York City.

“When we launched under the SchoolMessenger brand in January we had high hopes for continued growth of our business, but the last few months have far exceeded our expectations,” said Carter B. Myers, vice president of Anonymous Communications Solutions for SchoolMessenger and co-developer of Talk About It. “The fact that we have brought on board over 100 schools in just the first 100 days is a testament to the value that school leadership places on having a true two-way dialogue with students regarding bullying and other issues.”

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Pennsylvania Safe Schools Conference Tackles Bullying

ascentiveCyber safety news from the Ascentive team

The Center for Safe Schools has announced that nearly 500 stakeholders from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and beyond will convene in Harrisburg for the fifteenth annual Safe Schools Conference May 8-9, 2012. The latest research in school safety and youth violence prevention; as well as effective program models and practices from state and national experts will be presented.

The conference provides school leaders and personnel, law enforcement and community partners with the tools to create a positive school climate; one that supports academic success, learning and teaching in a safe and nurturing environment.

“Specifically, the event includes practical resources and information to deal with safety issues that schools face daily –  bullying prevention, conflict management, emergency response and crisis management, and initiatives to address student mental health issues,” said Lynn Cromley, Center for Safe Schools director.

“The 9/11 documentary ‘REBIRTH’ is included as a tool to inform, enlighten and help professionals prepare for future disasters and better understand the impact of trauma on lives, schools and communities,” Cromley said.

The film is a riveting journey into living history – an act of personal witness to one of the most profound events in American history and the healing that has come in its wake. The result of a decade-long process by director Jim Whitaker, the inspirational story of “REBIRTH” follows the nearly ten-year transformation of five people whose lives were forever altered on September 11, 2001 – and simultaneously tracks via unprecedented multi-camera time-lapse photography the minute-by-minute evolution of the space where the Twin Towers once rose. Both a singular cinematic and human experience, “REBIRTH” is deeply intimate and uplifting – providing a moving portrait of how trauma and grief metamorphose into hope and rebuilding as the human spirit transcends the unthinkable over time.

“The entire Project Rebirth team, especially our five film participants, are pleased and grateful every time educational professionals use our film and film content in advancing their own missions. Applications to date have ranged from teaching the history of 9/11 to advancing the conversation about the need for improved disaster preparation and response in our schools,” said Brian Rafferty, Project Rebirth board chairman.

Following the screening, Project Rebirth’s Advisor for Public Safety and Education, Gregory Thomas, will lead a Q&A discussion about the film including school emergency preparedness and trauma. As the Executive Director of School Safety for the New York City Public Schools during the terrorist attacks, Thomas worked closely with federal, state and local officials to address security and disaster related issues that arose for the many schools in the lower Manhattan area.

“The educational mission of Project Rebirth has been its main driver since filming began six months after the 9/11 attacks: to educate future generations about the suffering of those left behind, and to highlight the strength of the human spirit in the face of the challenges they faced and met over the years,” Rafferty said.

The 2012 conference is presented by the Center for Safe Schools in partnership with the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Equity Assistance Center; with sponsorship support from the Highmark Foundation.

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Federal-Mogul and Philadelphia University announce winners of 2nd annual student innovation competition

AscentiveTech News from the Ascentive team

An interdisciplinary team of seven students in Philadelphia University’s College of Design, Engineering and Commerce have been named winners of the second annual student innovation competition sponsored by Federal-Mogul Corporation.  The students were challenged to develop an innovative and commercially viable product using the company’s QuietShield noise suppression material.

The winning team designed a new acoustic application of QuietShield GRN for the industrial sector.  The team, which received a $5,000 cash prize, included senior business students Marissa Freilich, an accounting major, Dana Mazzella, a marketing major, and Lauren Timko, a marketing major; engineering seniors Jeffrey Kopczynski and Brad Krohl; and industrial design graduate student John Pickard and junior Michael Shannon.

“We were pleased to work with Federal-Mogul again this year on this innovation competition that showcases the strengths of our College of Design, Engineering and Commerce,” said Philadelphia University President Stephen Spinelli Jr.  “Innovative learning projects such as this one reinforce Philadelphia University’s signature Nexus learning approach — active, collaborative, connected to the real world and infused with the liberal arts — which gives our students a competitive edge in the real world.”

Lauren Timko, a senior marketing major, said it was challenging but rewarding to work with students in different disciplines, and that is just the kind of collaborative approach she expects to find in the work place once she graduates.  “This was definitely a learning experience, with a real goal and something that can be implemented for a real client, in this case Federal Mogul,” she said.  “It has absolutely prepared me for the work place.”

In all, a total of 56 students working in eight teams tackled the challenge of using an existing Federal-Mogul material to develop a new product while following a set of specific customer requirements.  Each team submitted a comprehensive business case that clearly presented their proposed offering, a detailed market analysis and supporting financial details.

“Although only one winning team could be chosen, we were very impressed by all of the students’ efforts,” said Janice Maiden, vice president and business director, Federal-Mogul Systems Protection. “Each team displayed leadership, creativity and problem solving that we strive to promote through the innovation competition.”

Brad Krohl, an engineering major on the winning team, said the project added insights into how large corporations work and designing with a commercial goal in mind.  “Federal-Mogul was helpful and informative during the project and gave us a great look at how real companies operate,” he said.  “And our professors put a lot of time and effort guiding us throughout the semester.”

Once again, this year’s competition promoted interdisciplinary collaboration, creative thinking, leadership development and innovative problem solving–all key themes in the University’s College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.

“By immersing students in multi-disciplinary projects for sponsors such as Federal Mogul, we are able to show the real power of our Nexus Learning approach,” said Michael Leonard, academic dean of the School of Design and Engineering in the College of DEC.  “The students acted as extensions of the Federal-Mogul team, sharing their disciplinary training to innovate, and worked at a pace similar to that which they will experience in the working world.”

Federal-Mogul, recognizing the importance of fostering product innovation in a commercial context with industrial leaders of tomorrow, has had a long and productive relationship with Philadelphia University that includes technology knowledge sharing, co-development projects, internships and employee recruitment.  In addition to the cash prize, winning students will have the opportunity to present their business case to Federal-Mogul senior executives at the company’s world headquarters in Southfield, Mich.

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Bully Documentary Ignites a National Conversation About the Harmful Mental Health Effects of Bullying

AscentiveCyber Safety news from the Ascentive team

This year 13 million American kids will be bullied and three million students will be absent because they feel unsafe at school, according to the documentary Bully. Bully sheds light on the harmful mental health effects bullying can have and has inspired a national conversation about how parents and educators should deal with this nationwide crisis.

“Bullying is a very serious issue that can result not only in immediate physical injury, but in lifelong emotional scars as well,” said Angela Mohan, a California-based licensed marriage and family therapist and member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. “Bullying in 2012 isn’t the same thing that parents may have experienced when they were young. Teens face bullies at school, home and in the online world. There’s no escape.”

Talking about how to handle bullies and how parents and educators can provide needed support is critically important. Parents and educators need to take action to identify bullying that may be happening now, to stop bullying that is taking place and to prevent it from happening in the future.

CounselingCalifornia.com offers conversation guidance for parents and educators who suspect their child or student is being bullied:

  •      Ask a general, open-ended inquiry: “Is anything going on at school or online with your friends/classmates that you want to talk about”? If the child seems hesitant to open up, don’t force the issue.
  •      Share a personal story: “When I was in high school…” Parents can relate with their child and encourage a conversation by telling a story about a time when they were bullied at school or at work.
  •      Make a direct inquiry: “Are you being bullied”?

On the flip side, if you suspect your child or student is acting like a bully, it is important to talk about the serious and lasting impact bullying can have on children and the potential consequences the child may face for being a bully. Equally important is talking to your child about changing his or her behavior.

CounselingCalifornia.com offers tips for parents and educators who suspect their child or student is acting as a bully:

  •      Sit down and talk to your child or student.  Be gentle but firm in your approach.  Ask open-ended questions to reduce the risk of the child becoming defensive (like, “Tell me what happened,” or “Your actions have hurt someone.  What do you think your consequence should be”?).  Is there any provocation (real or perceived)?
  •      If you are too aggressive (physically and/or verbally) in your response to bullying, you will be reinforcing the behavior.  Some ideas of appropriate consequences are to have the child make amends with the victim (to restore a sense of safety), do a community service, do special chores around the house, or remove a privilege or valued item for a while.
  •      Set clear and firm boundaries as to what is acceptable or not.  Set clear and firm consequences if the behavior continues.  Follow through consistently.

Some kids may be reluctant to talk about bullying. They might be embarrassed, afraid of the repercussions of telling someone or simply uncomfortable talking about it. If this is the case, parents or educators should enlist the help of another adult with whom their child is comfortable, such as an aunt or uncle, school counselor, pastor or talk therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist.

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More Organizations Launch Anti-Bullying Campaigns

AscentiveCyber Safety news from the Ascentive team

More and more organizations are launching their own campaigns to stop bullying and cyber-bullying. Tanda, a pioneer in energy-based at-home beauty devices, announces its Zap Bullying campaign to raise awareness among parents and teens about this epidemic and to empower teens to feel confident and secure in their own skin.  The multifaceted campaign from Tanda Zap, the powerful acne clearing technology endorsed by leading dermatologists and successfully used by thousands of users across the country, will include a partnership with the national leading anti-bullying organization STOMP Out Bullying™, a social media awareness campaign and a limited edition blue Zap device to support the cause.

“We envision a world in which young people feel safe from bullying and we’re thrilled to partner with the STOMP Out Bullying™ organization. We share their commitment to help people take a stand against bullying in schools and communities,” says Fabian Tenenbaum, CEO of Syneron Beauty, the maker of Tanda branded products.  “Tanda Zap offers ground-breaking acne clearing technology to help teens feel comfortable and secure in their own skin and we hope that this initiative will raise awareness and dialogue around this issue and that ultimately it will serve to help foster greater understanding and mutual respect among teens.”

Tanda Zap invites consumers to “Zap Bullying” and pledge support to this social campaign by visiting its Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Tanda.  “Like” Tanda and then “Vote” to Zap Bullying.  Tanda will donate $1 for each Vote to the STOMP Out Bullying™ organization.

“We are so grateful to have Tanda Zap as a philanthropic partner,” says Ross Ellis, Founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying™. “Together we can reach more schools, kids, teens and families affected by bullying with the critical educational resources and support services they need.”

As part of the campaign, the brand will introduce a limited edition blue Tanda Zap acne spot treatment device, from which a portion of proceeds will be donated to STOMP Out Bullying™. The limited edition blue Tanda Zap device will be available for $49 for Back to School 2012.

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, a partner in The Bully Project and a supporter of Lee Hirsch’s new documentary “Bully,” offers educators, students, families and individuals the tools they need to address bullying in schools. By downloading free resources at PACER.org/bullying, communities can find ways to help change the culture of bullying.

“The Bully movie gives everyone a heartbreaking look at the reality of bullying,” says Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. “Our hope is that the movie will be a call to action, and that more people will work together to create a climate that doesn’t accept this behavior.”

Resources available at PACER.org/bullying include bullying prevention classroom toolkits, activities and videos for K-12 students; toolkits for organizing community events around bullying prevention; tips for how parents can talk with their children about the subject and work with schools and more.

PACER’s TeensAgainstBullying.org website offers relevant and interactive information in a teen-friendly way. Teens can find strategies to deal with bullying, ways they can stand up for other kids, and ideas for how they can bring the bullying prevention message to their school. PACER’s KidsAgainstBullying.org website is also specifically designed for elementary-aged children and uses a cast of animated characters to share bullying prevention strategies.

In addition, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLB), AbilityPath and Autism Speaks are partnering with The Bully Project to raise awareness about how bullying affects children with disabilities. Resources and a toolkit will be available soon at specialneeds.bullyingproject.com.

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Fusion Project Unlocks Predictive Power of Public Data

AscentiveHave you ever wondered why Montana is the happiest state? Or why Mitt Romney is the front runner? These questions and others like them heavily influence our economy, our politics, and even everyday life, but the data that holds the answers is scattered far and wide. This is now changing thanks to the Fusion Project which is combing the vast data stores of government and research institutions alike to create one massively powerful data set.

The Fusion Project is making the promises of big data a reality and is possible only because of the explosion of available data. Back in 2010 Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, said that “every two days we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”. Data has even skyrocketed since then with the proliferation of smart phones, tablet computers, and other products producing new forms of data, but no one has yet taken full advantage of this overwhelming data source.

“I was surprised by the sheer volume of data available from governments and public institutions,” said Jason Kolb, a senior data scientist at Applied Data Labs. “But there is very little value being extracted from it due to its fragmented nature and our inability to analyze it all as a whole.” When the data is properly fused to private data, Kolb said, companies can reveal exciting new insights and identify ideas and opportunities that were previously hidden. For example, they can extend customer data with demographic and income information from the US Census project, or quality of life data from Pew Research. This unlocks much richer sets of information for use in customer service, marketing, and many other initiatives.

To address this need, Applied Data Labs is launching The Fusion Project–a public project using techniques and technology developed internally at Applied Data Labs to combine multiple public data sets into a single, value-packed data set for public consumption. Using distributed data analysis technology which employs advanced statistical analysis and data integration technology, the Fusion Project is able to join together previously silo’d data sets, unlocking insights and ideas that were previously unavailable. The project’s ultimate goal is to unlock the synergy latent in the publicly available data sets and put them to work in analytics environments.

“The Fusion Project uses several new and emerging technologies to work its magic,” said Kolb. “It’s one of the first projects to use Semantic Web technology in a meaningful way, and we’ve developed several unique ways to combine statistical research and analysis to stitch data sets together.” Applied Data Labs researches and develops experimental and theoretical analytic technologies internally and then consumerizes them in various ways, the Fusion Project being one of the first publicly-available incarnations of this process.

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United Way Brings Together Greater Philadelphia Business Leaders for Celebration of Women and Leadership

AscentiveBusiness news from the Ascentive team

United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Women’s Initiative hosted its annual gala last evening to celebrate women leaders in philanthropy and volunteerism. Presented by Independence Blue Cross, proceeds from the gala support the work of United Way’s Women’s Initiative, which focuses on programs for at-risk women and girls, including Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow (GTLT), a program that helps at-risk adolescent girls develop self-esteem and leadership skills.

The gala, attended by Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and members of the business community, was co-hosted by Sherryann Plesse, principal and chief learning officer at Vanguard and Renee Rhem, vice president, customer service at Independence Blue Cross.  Sixth and seventh grade girls, who are part of the 2012 Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow class, were featured in the program which also recognized Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown as the 2012 Women’s Initiative award winner.

“The mission of United Way’s Women’s Initiative and that of Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown is the same,” said Jill Michal, president and CEO, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “We’re both committed to ensuring the success of women and girls in our region- I know we all left the event feeling inspired by her leadership and passion.”

“The Councilwoman leads by example and her life commitment to women’s issues is evident,” added Amy Frazier, Marketing & Sales Leader at Pricewaterhouse Cooper and Chair of United Way’s Women’s Initiative. “As women, she challenged us to continue to do more for our girls, and our community.”

The Women’s Initiative is comprised of many of the region’s top professional women who give, advocate and volunteer in support of at-risk women and girls. Through United Way’s Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow program, girls participate in community- and school-based activities that help them build self-esteem, honor their bodies and maintain healthy relationships with their peers.

The United Way Women’s Initiative is a leadership network committed to philanthropy and volunteerism in the Greater Philadelphia area. The Women’s Initiative is bringing positive change to our community by increasing the impact of women donors, increasing the number of women volunteers, and strengthening programs serving at-risk women and girls.  The Women’s Initiative’s signature program – Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow – is changing the lives of at-risk adolescent girls and supporting area agencies with proven success in serving this vulnerable population.

United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people’s lives. United Way engages the community to identify the underlying causes of the most significant local issues, develops strategies and pulls together financial and human resources to address them, and measure the results. United Way is advancing the common good in southeastern Pennsylvania by focusing on education for children, income for families and health for seniors.

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