Our Investment – Our Youth
It has been more than twenty years since the Search Institute in Minneapolis, MN released its findings on a framework of 40 Developmental Assets. The assets contribute to the overall well being of a child. Over this timeframe, an astonishing 4 million or more youth have been surveyed and polled. The data reported that the more Developmental Assets a youth obtains, during their childhood, the more likely they are to succeed in school and become happy, healthy and providing citizens in society. According to the Search Institute, the 40 Developmental Assets were “explicitly designed to provide greater attention to the positive developmental nutrients that young people need for successful development.” The Journal of Community Psychology reported that, as a nation, we agree, “Raising successful young people should be one of our top priorities, even more important than preventing crime and creating more jobs.” Are we, as “villagers raising a village”, ensuring that every child in our “village” has the necessary assets or “nutrients” to become the best adult they can be?
The layout of the 40 Developmental Assets begins with identifying 20 external and internal assets broken down by specific age ranges. The external assets are built as four categories, which are support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time—with a varying number of subcategories for each. The internal assets are laid out in the same fashion. Internal assets consist of commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity. The asset model is easy to read and follow. It is adaptable for all youth regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, family makeup, parent education levels or location.
Assets that protect young people include:
* Support – from parents, siblings, extended family members, congregations, community members etc.
* Empowerment – youth feel empowered to be involved in school, church or community life.
* Boundaries and expectations – youth know that there are clear boundaries and certain expectations of appropriate behavior expected of them.
* Constructive use of time – youth participate in activities that support their development like 4-H, scouts, music, sports or theater and school clubs.
* Commitment to learning – youth know that an education is necessary for their future success.
* Positive values – youth are caring and supportive of family and friends.
* Social competencies – youth have skills in decision making, communication and conflict resolution.
* Positive identify – feeling good about yourself and a positive view of the future.
The Search Institute states that, “For most of the assets, whether young people experience them depends directly or indirectly on their relationships with adults.” The Journal of School Health reported that youth who have a sense of connection with adults and their community are less likely to engage in violence and substance abuse. However, very few youth report having an intentional, positive, and frequent relationship with a caring adult outside of the family realm. And in a rapidly growing technological society those relationships are becoming fewer and more distant than ever. There are avenues for further engagement with a young person—sharing in the responsibility of “raising a small villager.”
4-H is a national organization that helps young people, ages 5-19, develop knowledge and skills to become productive citizens. It also helps youth to be more capable to meet the challenges of today’s society. 4-H allows youth and adults to work together to design programs that will teach skills for better living. Being a 4-H volunteer allows the volunteer to help plan educational programs and organize community service projects to give the youth opportunities to gain life skills such as responsibility, record keeping, and leadership. Youth who develop such skills at an early age will continue to use those same skills as they grow, possibly helping them choose a career path that will lead to a successful and productive future.
When you invest your time into building life skills into a young person you are investing in your future.