AHA! (Attitude. Harmony. Achievement.) (Santa Barbara, CA)

Work Address

  • Organization Name:AHA! (Attitude. Harmony. Achievement.)
  • Address:1209 De la Vina St.
    Suite A
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101
    United States

Work Web



  • Mission:
  • AHA! is dedicated to the development of character, imagination, emotional intelligence and social conscience in teenagers. Through an innovative curriculum, AHA seeks to improve attitude, increase social harmony, and bridge the achievement gap, guiding teens to fight bullying and prejudice, communicate effectively, manage their emotions, support their peers and serve the community.

  • Overview:
  • AHA! was created by Jennifer Freed, PhD, and Rendy Freedman, MFT as a response to the Columbine shootings in 1999, with the mission of development of character, imagination, emotional intelligence and social conscience in teenagers, through an innovative SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum. We teach competencies that enhance empathy, resiliency, gratitude, and acceptance/celebration of difference; we teach them how to be aware of the damaging impacts of "-isms" and how to interrupt and prevent bullying; we help connect youth that might otherwise not reach out to one another across lines of clique, color or socioeconomic status; and we help youth navigate healthier relationships with teachers and other adults in their lives. Our method for working with teens is not didactic, but is based in core principles of mutuality, reciprocity, joy, and collective responsibility. In a ratio of no fewer than one adult per six youth, adults and youth partner in exploring social and emotional skills as a diverse, highly participatory learning community.

    In schools, we will work with the freshman classes of Carpinteria, San Marcos, and Santa Barbara High School, and at-risk youth at Santa Barbara Junior High and and La Cuesta Continuation High School. Nine after-school groups (Guys’, Girls’, Alumni, Carpinteria High School on-campus After-School, two sections of Ally Leadership Training, Peace Builders After-School, Creative Discoveries, Sing It Out), twice-yearly Parent Nights, drop-in groups during school breaks, and twice-yearly Outdoor Days will also be offered. This year we have also partnered with the Granada Theater to send groups of youth to see STOMP!, Guys & Dolls, and Chicago. Summer programming will include a five-week summer intensive held four days per week, a Parent Night, and three Peace Builders workshops for a total of 125 high school students at three area high schools: Santa Barbara High, San Marcos High, and Dos Pueblos High. 2200 or more teens will be served in our in-school programs, which meet once per week for one-hour periods ranging from 6-10 weeks.

    Our Peace Builders program, now in its second year, teaches youth in 10th-12th grades to listen to and learn from one another within Connection Circles (aka Peace Circles), a form of council circle where they share and listen without judgment or cross-talk and within a safe space of confidentiality. They learn to think in terms of repairing harm instead of punishing harm, to get to know those who are not like them, and to interrupt hate without aggression. We already serve about 100 youth from San Marcos, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria High Schools in the current PB Initiative. Students use our original Peace-Q web application (www.peaceq.com) to log peace circles, record the questions they've used in those circles, and to log Peace Points. Due to strong demand for Peace Builders, we've delivered trainings this winter to students at La Cuesta Continuation High School, SBCC Middle College, and mothers and daughters in the National Charity League (NCL). We are about to hold a Peace Builders convening for all PB students at all area campuses on March 7th. These Peace Builder in-school students are incredibly excited about their participation, and have taken strong initiative to drive the expansion of peace circles within their schools and communities. At this writing, participants in Peace Builders have outreached to an additional 3500+ peers and community members via Peace Circles.

    We have been in a period of growth since 2011, going from serving a few hundred teens each year to serving over 3000 per year, and the demand for our programming has never been greater. 2015-16 will be a period of fortifying our sustainability and refining our methods and curricula as we continue to serve roughly 2200 teens per year and an additional 3000+ through our Peace Builder connection circles. We are looking at possibilities for taking our Peace Builders work to other parts of the country ⎯ which we will only do if we can also maintain our core programming here at home. This is a moment in which core support is invaluable for creating a sustainable set of programs for the next several years and beyond.

  • History:
  • Founded in 1999 just after the Columbine shootings, AHA! has gone from serving a few dozen teens per year to serving over 3000 teens in 2014-15. Named "disruptive innovators" by Superintendent David Cash in 2014, AHA! is the only agency in Santa Barbara geared specifically toward teaching social-emotional intelligence. All after-school and summer programs are free to youth (parents donate if/as much as they can); schools and the school system pitch in toward our work on their campuses, but we fund most of our programming through grants and donations.

    In 1999, therapists Jennifer Freed, PhD, and Rendy Freedman, MFT started an after-school group for teenagers with the intention of exploring relationship ⎯ the most important thing to any teenager. Teens in the program learned to understand themselves better and to listen and share with compassion and vulnerability. Today, research studies firmly support the importance of this kind of social-emotional learning (how to read people; how to sustain connection) in building successful, happy lives.

    Next, AHA! began to offer a free summer program for teens under the umbrella of the non-profit Family Therapy Institute (FTI). Over the course of the next decade, the after-school program evolved, and schools began to ask for AHA!'s presence on their campuses, teaching freshmen about acceptance, reduction of prejudice and stereotypes, privilege, and peaceful intervention in bullying situations. By 2011, AHA's programs had grown enough to merit its becoming its own independent non-profit, with its own Board of Directors and volunteer Development Committee. We found a dedicated space, a Victorian building right in the heart of Santa Barbara, where we could expand our offices and hold groups. We also hold groups at the campus of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, which has offered space to us at a great rate since our beginnings.

    In its 15th year, AHA! won an award from the Susan Crown Exchange: out of over 240 applicants, we were chosen as one of the eight best after-school social-emotional learning programs nationwide, and are now involved in helping create a national model for teaching social and emotional competencies to youth. We also launched the Peace Builders Initiative in that 15th year. Support from the Towbes Foundation enabled us to bring in two UCSB doctoral students to create research tools to help measure the impact of Peace Builders trainings on students who attend. As we enhance our evidence base through research from the Susan Crown Exchange (they are studying our Girls' and Ally after-school groups, creating a research model for SEL programming in general), we expect to continue to garner more funding at the national level and to continue to expand our reach.

    In 2009, we were named a Local Hero by the Santa Barbara Independent; in 2010, the City of Santa Barbara named us Youth Agency of the Year; and in Fall of 2010, we received the Be the Change Award from the South Coast Teen Coalition. Facilitators Paul Lewis and Martin Leyva won the Local Hero award for their work with Peace Builders in 2013.

  • Year established:1999
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:Operating

Types of funding being sought (i.e. funding type)

  • None specified

Program areas of focus and activity (i.e. funding cause)

  • None specified

Geographic areas of focus and activity (i.e. geographic area)

  • None specified

Organization tax information is not viewable for this organization.