So much of the news we see today is focused on the problems that are affecting today’s youth – violence, substance use, difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – the list goes on and on. What if, however, we started to focus on all of the positive things that can help build into our youth the skills and traits they need to thrive and succeed? This is exactly what one of Epiphany Community Services’ (ECS) clients, Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford Area, did.
The 40 Developmental Assets® framework, created by Search Institute, consists of preventative measures, positive experiences, and qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. These assets are protective factors that have been consistently shown, by research, to buffer youth from risk. The more assets a child has, the higher the probability that they will not be involved in high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, delinquency, or violence.
There are two categories of assets: external assets and internal assets. External assets are the assets that center around positive experiences from the people and experiences in a young person’s life. Internal assets are those that focus on individual qualities that guide positive choices and develop a sense of confidence, passion, and purpose.
Working with 10 sectors, including school, faith, healthcare, business, civic, law enforcement, and other community resources, this project, which began in 2020, focused on external assets they could promote and support. These external assets fell into four categories: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time. Forty-three (43) agencies/departments were represented as discussions and activities took place to allow those present to think about their sector, what they were currently doing to promote assets to support youth, and what they were willing to commit to in the future.
Those at the table discovered that while they were already doing a lot to support youth, they could be doing even more to promote protective factors for this population. Local sectors were already building assets that included encouraging positive relationships with other adults, providing experiences so that youth could constructively spend their time, and empowering youth by demonstrating that they are a valued part of the community. Ways in which they did this included giving youth important roles in school, providing employment and internship opportunities for youth in local government, fostering mentoring in the workplace, and providing youth activities. In addition to these activities, participating organizations and agencies pledged to do more, including encouraging volunteerism and youth voice, as well as promoting mental health.
Community partners did more than just pledge to do more to support youth – they put their ideas into action. In the coming months, the City of Oxford will embark on a comprehensive planning process and has reserved three seats for youth on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, allowing youth to have a voice and say in the future of the Oxford community. Additionally, a new partnership has been formed with the Oxford Chamber of Commerce that will focus on working with businesses that employ both Talawanda High School and Miami University students to foster safe mentoring spaces.
According to Amy Macechko, Project Coordinator for the Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford Area, “As a coalition, we strive to reinforce that everyone has a role to play in building a healthier community. Through this initiative, we were able to intentionally focus on positive youth development with each sector and I am excited to see how each sector seeks to create an asset-rich Oxford Area for our youth!”
To learn more about the Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford Area’s asset mapping project, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFbZoyR_Sk4