As a highly trained Lightspeed Safety Specialist, Ariana Marks understands the magnitude her work has on students’ lives. We had the opportunity to chat with Ariana to learn more about her background and what her role as a Safety Specialist means to her.
Hi, Ariana! Thank you for making time to meet with us. Introduce yourself, tell us about your background, and what your hobbies are.
Hi! I’m Ariana Marks. My career background has always revolved around kids. When I started working in high school, I was a YMCA summer camp counselor. I did that every summer until my college graduation. Then, I became a program director of an after-school program. I earned my psychology degree and decided I wanted to be a teacher. I was a 10th grade world history teacher for three years and a head girls basketball coach.
I currently live in Austin, Texas — born and raised. I love to explore the city and be out in the elements, so my hobbies revolve around that. I love hiking and being outdoors, but another passion of mine is mental health and psychology, so I spend a lot of time reading and learning.
How does Lightspeed Alert™ work to save lives, and what are the key benefits for districts?
The way that Lightspeed Alert works to save lives can be described in one word: response. The impact that we make as human reviewers is unmatched by other alert systems. The alert gets assigned to a Safety Specialist, we investigate the alert, the search history and intent, previous alerts, and make the decision on how to escalate the alert.
Lightspeed Alert enhances safety, enhances protection, and provides data. Lightspeed Alert provides districts and schools with data that helps them prevent future alerts. They can see how many, and the type of, alerts a kid has, and their search history. They can also see what age group has the most alerts. We can directly impact the safety of children with the alert system.
Are there any surprising trends or alerts that you've seen most often?
The most common alert I see is for self-harm in the middle-school and high-school age group. I’m seeing a lot of kids talk about suicide or looking up ways to commit suicide.
There was one self-harm alert that I had to escalate to an imminent threat. A student was looking up the suicide prevention hotline and researching resources for help. That was the trigger for me — I needed to call somebody because they were thinking about it right at that moment. I deemed it an imminent threat and escalated it to the district safety personnel.
Another alert that has been trending is young elementary kids that are looking up, or talking about, inappropriate content. The age really surprised me and when you’re seeing the words that they’re typing it’s makes you step back. The district or school still receives these alerts, but it’s our job to investigate to determine if intervention or something more drastic is needed.
Can you share an alert that was most impactful to you, and how you were able to help?
One alert that I received that has always stuck in my mind was for a girl in early high-school. She was speaking to an ex-boyfriend about their relationship, and she said that if they didn’t get back together then she was going to take her dad’s pills and overdose.
As a human reviewer, I tried to put myself in her world because it’s easy as an adult to think they’re being dramatic or impulsive, but that’s a reality of her world at that moment. She felt that if they didn’t get back together, there’s no point in being here. I escalated it to the district safety personnel. They got back to me a couple days later and told me she was safe, they informed the parents, and they were getting her help. In these moments, I feel like I’m making a big impact on kids’ lives. What if that school didn’t have Alert or Safety Specialists? It’s scary to think about the worst-case scenario.
What do you enjoy most about working at Lightspeed and being a Safety Specialist?
I love working at Lightspeed because I get to help save kids’ lives. I think every school should have Alert and Safety Specialists, because it is so impactful and it’s impossible for one person to manage all these alerts.
As a trained Safety Specialist, I can pick up the phone and get in contact with district officials right away, and they can take over the situation. Without the human review aspect of Lightspeed Alert, most of these cases would be left until the next day, or after the weekend. We have a team of people who are invested in kids, highly trained, and who care — that adds value and personalizes Lightspeed.