Bridging the gap

Local programs help youths succeed

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Assets: Social Competency

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

- #32 Planning and Decision-Making

Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.

- #33 Interpersonal Competence

Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills

- #34 Cultural Competence

Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.

- #35 Resistance Skills

Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations

- #36 Peaceful Conflict Resolution

Young person seeks to resolve conflict non-violently.

Constructive Use of Time Assets

Tips for building the Constructive Use of Time Assets:

- Ages Birth to 1 Encourage babies to experiment with sounds- it helps them develop language later on.

- Ages 1 to 2 Give toddlers at least two equally appealing choices whenever possible

- Ages 3 to 5 Let children make simple choices on their own such as what color socks they want to wear

- Ages 6 to 11 Find ways for children to spend time with people who look, act, think, and talk in different ways.

- Ages 12 to 15 Help youth use healthy coping skills when difficult situations arise

- Ages 16 to 18 Encourage teens to practice healthy responses to situations where they might feel pressured or uncomfortable, such as being offered alcohol/drugs by a friend or being challenged in a fight.

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

— Partners in Routt County, a youth mentoring organization, and Integrated Community, an organization working to promote and support the successful integration of immigrant and local community members, collaborate on the four-year-old Bridges program. Bridges combines the benefits of mentoring with language and cultural learning for immigrant youths. Mentors known as senior partners serve as friends, role models and tutors to youths known as junior partners. The mentoring helps youths succeed in school and adjust to changes in their social and cultural environment.

Daniel Wright, a junior at Lowell Whiteman School, demonstrates asset #34: cultural competence. He spends three hours a week with his junior partner, Enrique Mendoza, a fourth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School, helping him read and speak English more proficiently. Daniel lived in France for two years and knows what it means to learn a second language.

"I can relate to how hard and frustrating it is to learn another language and culture - that's why I wanted to get involved with the Bridges program," he said.

This empathy and sensitivity demonstrate asset #33, interpersonal competence, which he also is building in Enrique. At first, they were both a little shy and were not sure of what to talk about, but now they are good friends. Enrique also is improving his planning and decision-making skills, asset #32, by learning how to make plans in advance, return phone calls and keep commitments to hang out when the two have plans to do something together.

Kimy Haas also participates in the Bridges program and mentors a teenage girl from Colombia who is finishing high school in Steamboat Springs.

Kimy admires her partner's down-to-earth and friendly attitude.

"I try hard to help her adjust to American life without losing the rich and beautiful culture that she comes from. She's given me candies from her country and shown me different art," she said. "My own cultural competence is being tested within our partnership and it is a wonderful experience to discover that together."

For more information on Bridges or other youth-serving programs, contact Partners in Routt County at 879-6141 and Integrated Community at 846-5521.

Skills and attitudes

The Social Competency Assets focus on developing the skills and attitudes that will help young people function as capable, independent individuals. The 2005 Search Institute's Profile of Our Youth survey shows that the following percentages of Steamboat Springs High School students possess each of the following assets: planning and decision-making, 25 percent; interpersonal communication, 43 percent; cultural competence, 33 percent; resistance skills, 27 percent; peaceful conflict resolution, 42 percent. Steamboat Springs High School students have an average of 16.9 of the 40 assets. The national average is 19.

When a community provides opportunities for young people to build their Social Competency Assets, it helps young people make plans and decisions, make friends and get along with all kinds of people. Young people will have the strength and smarts to avoid risky situations and resolve conflicts without using violence.

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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