A H.E.R.O. of Protection – Safe Kids co-founder Adam Coughran ’04 (M.A. ’10) uses an artful approach to help safeguard schoolchildren from the unthinkable. Safe Kids co-founder Adam Coughran ’04 (M.A. ’10) uses an artful approach to help safeguard schoolchildren from the unthinkable.

Adam Coughran ’04 (M.A. ’10) recognized that incidents involving active shooters and violent intruders were becoming more common in the United States. A 20-year veteran of law enforcement, Coughran was helping parents prepare to meet such challenges, but  he couldn’t answer a question posed by some teachers in elementary schools: How do we teach our youngsters to survive violent events?

Chatting over the hood of a police cruiser, coffee in hand, Coughran and a friend were struck by an idea – why not make a coloring book that conveys important lessons? The simple idea of developing tools to help teach a challenging curriculum led Coughran to co-found Safe Kids Inc., an organization specializing in age-appropriate lesson plans for children in grade school. The organization, founded in 2016, brings together a team of professionals in law enforcement, education, child psychology and other fields to teach safety strategies to elementary-school-aged children.

By focusing on research-based safe thinking and action, Safe Kids came up with the H.E.R.O. program: “hide, escape, run and overcome.” Depending on the grade level, the Common Core, cross-curricular lessons are taught using coloring books, short stories and original narratives.

Chapman graduates make up 75 percent of the staff at Safe Kids Inc. “They have the entrepreneurial spirit,” Coughran says. “They’re always finding ways to become a bigger part of whatever we’re working on.”

“Because of social media and television, kids are far more connected (to news of violent events) than ever before,” Coughran said. “We want to create a generation of safe thinkers. It’s about creating a culture of safety.”

And just where does this desire to serve others come from? Coughran recalled being a sophomore at Chapman University when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Watching from home as the country experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, he knew his life would never be the same.

“I had to do something,” said Coughran, whose undergraduate degree is in political science, with a minor in legal studies. His master’s degree is  in organizational leadership. “If I can’t stop it from happening, I’ll help people survive instead.”

From the very beginning of his venture, Coughran knew he wanted to work with people he could trust. He thought Chapman first.

“Chapman has a unique family-based bond,” he said. He experienced that recently when he ran into Professor Gordon Babst, Ph.D., in the campus Starbucks. It had been 11 years since he’d been a political science student of Babst, but the two dived into a discussion as if the class were ongoing.

“You just bond with your professors and faculty on a different level,” Coughran said. He is eager to share that 75 percent of the Safe Kids staff are from Chapman University. He notes that Chapman graduates are consistently among the best people for the job.

“They have the entrepreneurial spirit,” Coughran said. “They’re always finding ways to become a bigger part of whatever we’re working on. I always knew Chapman had a great alumni base, but I was still astonished to witness it firsthand.”

Safe Kids has already reached a national level, with locations in their H.E.R.O. Network all over the United States. As the network grows, more teachers and parents will have the tools necessary to give their children specific plans so everyone can take a thoughtful approach in planning for the unthinkable.

“Think Chapman First” by recruiting Chapman students and alumni to join your organization’s team. Visit chapman.edu/tcf or email Chapman’s Career and Professional Development team at thinkchapmanfirst@chapman.edu to post a job or internship  opportunity.

This story appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Chapman Magazine.

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Aaron Singh

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