Letter from the Director of Student Services
As a school counselor and as a parent I have often wondered why some children grow up with ease, while others struggle. Why do some kids get involved with drugs and other dangerous activities, while others spend their time contributing productively to society? Why do some kids “beat the odds” in difficult situations, yet others are trapped by making very poor choices?
For the past ten to fifteen years The Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota has been doing research to answer these questions. Their research shows that there are many factors that influence why some young people have successes in life and why others have a more difficult time. Certainly genetics, economic circumstances, and trauma play a role. According to The Search Institute research, these factors – although difficult, if not impossible to change – are not all that matters. There are things that teachers, parents, and other members of the community can do to help nurture.
At the heart of the institutes’s work is the framework of 40 Developmental Assets, which are positive experiences and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.
- Support – Young people need to experience support, care, and love from their families and many others. They need organizations and institutions that provide positive, supportive environments.
- Empowerment – Young people need to be valued by their community and have opportunities to contribute to others. For this to occur, they must be safe and feel secure.
- Boundaries and expectations – Young people need to know what is expected of them and whether activities and behaviors are “in bounds” or “out of bounds.”
- Constructive use of time – Young people need constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs, congregational involvement, and quality time at home.
- Commitment to learning – Young people need to develop a lifelong commitment to education and learning.
- Positive values – Youth need to develop strong values that guide their choices.
- Social competencies – Young people need skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life.
- Positive identity – Young people need a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise.
The asset framework is a framework that includes everyone. Families, schools, neighborhoods, congregations, and all organizations, institutions, and individuals in a community can play a role in building assets for youth.
Paula M. Bynum
Director of Student Services