Stanford Professor Emeritus and World-Renowned Psychologist, Dr. Zimbardo Challenges SMA Prep Cadets to Train for Everyday Heroic Action

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University introduced cadets at SMA Prep to the Heroic Imagination Project of which he is the founder and president. Many know of Dr. Zimbardo for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment along with many other notable works. Currently, he is focused on motivating people to no longer be bystanders and instead take action to have a positive impact on the world around them.

Growing up in poverty in the Bronx in the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Zimbardo often wondered how it was that some of his friends in the neighborhood grew up to be “bad” kids while others grew up to be “good” kids. As he refocuses his pursuit of understanding human behavior, he has established a new approach by asking, “how do ordinary people act heroically? Being introduced to the Heroic Imagination Project, cadets began to make their own connections with issues such as bullying and intolerance that can also be a part of their adolescent lives.

“Heroism starts in the mind.”

The larger question Dr. Zimbardo posed to cadets was, “Can anyone be a hero?” and emphasized the need to teach people to move away from being passive and instead to help people and situations that are in distress. Other questions came to light such as how to eliminate stereotypes and become more accepting of others as well as the value of developing a growth mindset as opposed to a mindset that is fixed and unchangeable. Dr. Zimbardo imparted to cadets that success in life depends on mindset, are you thinking into the future or are you stuck in the present only seeking immediate reward?

Dr. Zimbardo speaks to cadets this year for Project Equality which is one of the pathways developed through The Inspire Project created by SMA-MAJ Todd Brown who teaches 8th-grade Individuals & Societies as well as Civics. Brown has been cultivating this program over 5 years and it has positively impacted many students. SMA Cadet-CPL Grace Wagler is currently attending SMA High School and shared this about Dr. Zimbardo, “something that really stuck with me was the idea that just as normal people can take on “evil” roles so easily, normal people can also take on roles as heroes. This was an interesting concept and I think it is amazing that DrZimbardo used the findings from an experiment that sort of went south (Stanford Prison Experiment) to inspire people to become everyday heroes.”.

Dr. Zimbardo is also involved in the green school movement with the goal to empower kids across the world as Eco-Heros. He currently works with schools in 18 countries and Green School in Bali is particularly impressive. SMA Prep was awarded the Green Flag award from Eco-Schools USA through the National Wildlife Federation. The connection to other green schools offers a unique opportunity for SMA Prep cadets to collaborate on a global level.

Dr. Zimbardo and his team believe, “Most people want to take effective action in challenging situations, they just don’t know how.” He is hoping to train a new generation of heroes, “suggesting that each and every seemingly ordinary person on this planet is capable of committing heroic acts”.

About Sarasota Military Academy

Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) is a public charter, (6th-12th) located on 2 campuses in Sarasota, FL. As an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, SMA provides students with a 21st-century learning experience immersed in daily military principles of honor, respect, and leadership. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor, and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multicultural and globalized world. More information is available at

About Heroic Imagination Project

The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) develops and implements education programs, research, and public initiatives to inspire and encourage everyday heroism. Our mission is to encourage and empower individuals to take heroic action during crucial moments in their lives. We prepare them to act with integrity, compassion, and moral courage, heightened by an understanding of the power of situational forces. More information is available at