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Prevention PeriodiCALL Highlight: NOVA's Encouraging Upstanders Program

In 2013, the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) in Bucks County started thinking about prevention in a different way than they had before. From this, a peer education program was formed – Encouraging Upstanders.

“We wanted to do a program that included the youth in our schools to lead the education, so, hence we started a peer based program” said Mary Worthington, Elementary Education Coordinator at NOVA, who hosted the May Prevention PeriodiCALL on the Encouraging Upstanders program.

The Encouraging Upstanders program trains sophomores, juniors, and senior high school students who serve as role models and deliver programming to elementary school students about intervening as a bystander in a positive way. This includes topics of promoting kindness, preventing the bystander effect, how to help others, and learning about support resources.

Students work with NOVA staff through five sessions, helping them prepare their presentation for the elementary students. Then, over the course of three days, the high school students visit elementary school classrooms and present 45 minute presentations.

“We know how important the role of the bystander can be… it’s estimated that in about 85% of bullying situations, bystanders are present… but only about 10% of those bystanders intervene,” Mary said. “[Bystanders] have lots of power to intervene, or at least support the victim, and provide at least some sort of empathy and understanding after the fact.”

NOVA defines upstander as a person who takes action, particularly when the easiest or most acceptable course is to do nothing. Students who participate in these programs have t-shirts with this definition on them.

“We’re planting the seeds of that culture of accountability to young people,” said Mary. “With that culture of accountability, we want them to think about how it goes into their frame of reference as they leave high school, and go onto college and employment.” 

For more information about the Encouraging Upstanders program, contact NOVA at