Play role in youth development

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— This February in particular finds many residents standing in driveways scratching their heads in frustration about where to toss the next shovel full of snow. Fortunately, Winter Carnival has arrived, offering distraction from snow removal aches and pains or whatever seasonal affective disorder one might be experiencing.

Winter Carnival, however, is much more than an old-time remedy for the winter blues. The annual event is an extraordinary example of the 40 Developmental Assets at work. Fun, youth-friendly activities are abundant - including multi-generational street events, children pulled by horses down Lincoln Avenue, the high school student snow sculpture competition, the marching band on skis, just to name a few - and provide local young people with the community support they need. Winter Carnival demonstrates how this community honors and supports the healthy development of youth.

This article is the first of nine weekly articles discussing what everyone in the community can do year-round to ensure that young people have the positive external supports and internal strengths they need to succeed in life, also known as the 40 Developmental Assets.

In October 2005, all Steamboat Springs High School students participated in a Search Institute survey that revealed what they think about their lives, values, opportunities and relationships with families, teachers, friends and neighbors. Only 13 percent felt the community values youths (Developmental Asset No. 7), and only 21 percent felt they had positive adult role models (Developmental Asset No. 14). These findings tell us there's a lot more each of us can do to help young people thrive.

The asset concept is simple and based on common sense. Young people need a variety of people in their life to nurture both internal and external assets. Children with few of these assets have much greater difficulty avoiding risks associated with substance abuse, violence and school failure. Children with many assets are more likely to be in good physical, mental and emotional health, have leadership capabilities and respect for others, and grow into confident, productive and involved community members and adults.

The national average is 19 of 40 assets. Steamboat Springs High School students reported an average of 16.9 assets. The SSHS survey indicates 20 percent of youths have less than 10 assets, and only 4 percent have more than 31 assets. Only 4 percent of youths are rich with the factors that can contribute to their success.

Each weekly article will highlight one of the eight categories that provide the framework for the 40 Developmental Assets and include a few ways any community member can help build them for young people. Four of the assets categories - Support, Constructive Use of Time, Empowerment and Boundaries and Expectations - are external. They are the relationships and opportunities that surround young people. The other four are internal - Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies and Positive Identity. These assets are the guiding values and skills that young people develop.

During Winter Carnival weekend, remember that something as simple as cheering on youth in the street events or looking a high school snow sculptor in the eye and saying 'hi' helps our community's young people feel valued, acknowledged and cared for. All children and young people need assets, and everyone can build them, even you. All young people need as many asset-building experiences as possible all 52 weeks of the year, not just during Winter Carnival.

This article series will highlight stories of local people, events, projects and organizations that exemplify asset building. If you know of anyone in our community making a difference for young people who you feel should be highlighted in this series, call Grand Futures Prevention Coalition at 879-6188 or the Yampa Valley Community Foundation at 879-8632.

Visit www.search-institute.org for a list of the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for contributing to a healthy and nurturing community for everyone.

The Youth Wellness Initiative works to build sustained collaboration between schools, parents and the community to foster healthy lifestyles among youths.

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