The assets of empowerment

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Tips for building empowerment assets

Ages Birth to 1 Prop up babies and hold them so they can see more.

Ages 1 to 2 Start introducing the value of community service by having children do simple tasks at home, such as putting a toy away.

Ages 3 to 5 Teach children basic safety rules, such as learning their address and phone number and looking both ways before crossing a street.

Ages 6 to 11 Ask children what they like and do not like about their daily routines. Make changes to improve them.

Ages 12 to 15 Talk with young people about their feelings and fears about safety. Work to help young people be more safe.

Ages 16 to 18 Encourage teenagers to take leadership roles in addressing issues that concern them, such as writing letters about issues that are important to them to the editor of a local paper.

Ask local youth-serving agencies what they do daily to build assets.

This week's asset category: empowerment

These are internal assets that help youth grow up to be independent, capable and competent.

No. 7 Community Values Youth

Young person perceives that adults in the community values youth.

No. 8 Youth as Resources

Young people are given useful roles in the community.

No. 9 Service to Others

Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.

No. 10 Safety

Young person feels safe at home, school and in the neighborhood.

— Engaged students make important contributions to their schools and communities while experiencing a sense of belonging and a stake in their community. A 2005 Search Institute Profile of Our Youth survey revealed only 13 percent of Steamboat Springs High School students felt adults in the community value youths.

The Steamboat Springs Teen Council plans to change that perception. The Teen Council gives teens a voice on community issues, considers their perspectives and ideas and builds mutual respect between teens and adults through listening, sharing, taking risks and working together. Charlotte Letson, a Steamboat Springs High School sophomore and one of several founding members, says, "This is a chance for teens to be heard. Students are showing interest in this group and there is a lot of momentum."

Letson believes it is important for all teens to have the opportunity to "speak up." She has been one of the leaders in efforts to recruit beyond Steamboat Springs High School.

The group already has accomplished several goals. They organized a community barbecue to build bridges between teens and adults, visited a successful Teen Council in Greeley, developed council infrastructure, set goals, presented to Rotary Club and recruited new members. The council currently is in the process of designing a logo, developing mission and vision statements and planning an annual retreat to set goals for the upcoming year. The Teen Council is accepting applications for new members through May 1st. For an application call Teen Programs at 879-4300 or Grand Futures at 879-6188, or attend the next meeting April 15, open to anyone 13 to 19 years old. Teen Council meetings are on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the new Steamboat Springs Community Center.

The empowerment assets help young people feel valued. The 2005 Search Institute's Profile of Our Youth survey reveals the following percentage of Steamboat Springs High School students possess each of these assets: community values youths, 13 percent; youth as resources, 21 percent; service to others, 45 percent; safety, 62 percent. Youths with 31 or more assets are best equipped to live productive lives and fully participate as citizens. Local students possess an average of 16.9 assets.

Asset No. 7, community values youths, is the lowest asset reported by Steamboat high school students. Although adults might think our community greatly values local young people, the students disagree. One way to change this is through intentional relationships and communication. Learning about the young people you encounter, advocating on behalf of youths and celebrating positive contributions by youths and community support for youths are all simple ways to increase Asset No. 7.

Many cultures judge the health and worth of their community by the status of their youths. Any investment a community makes in today's young people has the potential for generations of return. Think about what you can do today to make a difference in the life of a young person.

The Youth Wellness Initiative works to build collaboration between parents, schools and community members to foster healthy lifestyles among youth.

For more information on the Youth Wellness Initiative or to nominate an asset builder for this series call Grand Futures, 879-6188 or the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, 879-8632.

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