Sunday Snippet: Positive Assets of Adolescence
We have always been intrigued by the work of the Search Institute in Minneapolis, MN. When so many negative reports and statistics bombard us about the sinking status of children and youth today, the nonprofit Search Institute has focused on the bright light of positive youth development by examining how we can (and are!) creating healthy communities for kids and young adults. Something camps have been doing for a long time ~ WeHaKee has been at it for 90 years!!
If you are familiar with the Search Institute, you are aware of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. These assets are subdivided into external assets (support, empowerment, boundaries & expectations, constructive use of time) and internal assets (commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, positive identity). As you glance through them, it is clear that they just make sense. But as a parent or an adolescent, they are difficult (often impossible) to achieve on your own. The communities each child grows in have profound influences on her/his life. And we know not all communities provide the positive influences parents and even adolescents prefer!
In examining a selection of the assets it becomes clear how important the camp experience can be in a young person’s life. Here are just a few of the assets that a quality camp experience such as WeHaKee can provide:
- A young person receives support from three or more non-parent adults
- A young person perceives that adults in the community value youth
- The young person serves in the community one hour or more per week
- A young person feels safe
- Other adults model positive, responsible behavior
- A young person places a high value on helping other people
- Young accepts and takes responsibility
- A young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices
- A young person has empathy, sensitivity and friendships skills
- A young person is optimistic about her personal future
These assets are interwoven intentionally and naturally at WeHaKee and have been since 1923. As a camp director, it is exciting and very gratifying to know that the camp experience can play such a positive role in a girl’s life, but it can also have a significant impact on the communities the WeHaKee girls return to. And it is satisfying to know that the tremendous body of research done by the Search Institute supports and validates the value of going to camp each summer. It really shows that positive youth development is all about relationships and community!