A number of interested adults last month attended a two-day "Infusing Assets" training session sponsored by the La Plata County Children, Youth and Family coalition highlighting the 40 developmental assets as defined by the Search Institute.
What is the formula for healthier, happier youths? 4-H Youth Development has always been part of the equation, offering opportunities for youths to develop leadership and other life skills that guide them through adulthood.
What are developmental assets? The Search Institute calls them concrete, positive experiences that have an influence on young people's lives. Through extensive research, Search Institute has identified 40 developmental assets that help young people make wide decisions, choose positive paths and grow up to be competent, caring and responsible. The assets are grouped into eight categories: support, empowerment, constructive use of time, boundaries and expectations, social competencies, commitment to learning, positive values and positive identity.
Some of the individual assets include communities valuing youths, youths serving in their communities, positive adult role models, creative activities and youth sense of purpose. Search Institute research has found that having more assets will increase the chances of young people having positive attitudes and behaviors and decrease the chances that youths will make harmful and unhealthy choices.
Families, schools, faith communities and youth development programs, such as 4-H, play a major role in building assets for youths. It doesn't cost a lot of money or require special training to build assets. All adults and youths play a role. Strong relationships with young people are the key, giving them a consistent message that they are valued. Consistent messages also let young people know what is important and what is expected from their families, schools, communities and other sources.
One of the highlights of this "Infusing Training" is realizing that there is a large number of interested individuals and groups in our communities working and looking for ways to build assets in our young people.
Serving La Plata County as a 4-H agent has allowed me to assist in developing assets in our youths. When asked, "What does 35 years (28 here and seven in Oregon) as a 4-H Agent mean?" It means 422 monthly newsletters; 28 round trips to Fort Collins for State 4-H Conference (23,520 total miles); organizing 86 quarterly 4-H Leader Trainings; 28 round trips to Denver for leadership development conferences (19,600 total miles); assisting with 35 county fairs and 35 4-H Achievement Banquets; 56 round trips to Pueblo for the State Fair (16,800 total miles); helping coordinate more than 100 4-H gymkhanas, horse shows and horse camps; and traveling to Michigan, Kansas, Oregon, Pennsylvania (three times), Washington, Illinois and California with more than 300 teens, most often on a school bus, as part of our two-way Interstate 4-H Exchange trips.
But most of all, it's having the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of 4-H volunteers in "making the best better" and the thousands of 4-H'ers whom I have had the pleasure of working with. Would I do it all again? Quoting Sarah Palin, "You Betcha!"
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6460. Bob Salzer is director of the La Plata County Extension Office.