The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on March 29, 1998 · Page 13
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 13

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, March 29, 1998
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Page 13
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SUNDAY ft£H2§ f 1 THE SAUNA JOURNAL Life One morning a week, 18-year-old Jennifer Mize meets with Caltlyn Mclaughlin, 6, at Whittler Elementary for the Breakfast Buddies programwhlcwstrted as a service project by Salina Central High School's student council. Mize embodies many of the 40 assets a research institute in Minneapolis claims are important to children being successful. Secrets °/ A Success Salina teen exhibits many assets Minnesota institute reports are needed to succeed By CRISTINA JANNEY - The Salina Journal Eighteen-year-old Salinan Jennifer Mize could be a parent's dream. An honors student, Mize also is student body president at Salina Central High School, editor of the school newspaper and an athlete. She's active in her church and community and plans to be a doctor. - Mize, the daughter of Salinans John and Karen Mize, 21 Crestview, became involved in the community early, .has a good support system, firm values and a positive view on life — a few of about 40 assets a research institute in Minnesota claims are important for children to be successful. The Salina Area United Way is using the assets to measure the effectiveness of the youth programs it supports, to help it make funding decisions and to shift the focus of the community efforts + to more preventive measures. "Thevars The study by The Search Insti- y tute in Minneapolis found that WOrth the of almost 100,000 youth in grades time nnrl six tnrou 8 n 12 > children with the llrnK UflU mos t identified assets were more effort even likely to succeed in school, value i ., diversity, maintain good health WtWn they are and save money. Cruddv T Children with few assets were '• more likely to have problems with alcohol, other drugs, vio- + lence and sexual activity. ,,,.., not The study divided the assets StQV Showing into two Broups — external and ; ~ C , ° internal. Support, boundaries fnat tney and constructive use of time fell Care " in the external group. Internal w*' assets include commitment to Tommye Sexton learning, positive values, social . . . competencies and positive iden- school counselor tity. ^ Exhibiting external assets, such as having adult role models and involvement in activities, tended to lead students toward internal assets, such as honesty, self-esteem or motivation to do well in school. Let's eat — together Family support, Jennifer said, has helped her succeed. "My parents encouraged me," she said. "They did not force me. I have chosen the things I have done, but they have always been there." The family eats together every night, which gives them a chance to talk about their days' activities, she said. The Search Institute recommends families eat at least one meal a day together to give family members time to talk about their concerns and activities. "We have deep talks once in a while. It seems we have been having those talks a lot more lately because I am getting ready to graduate and stuff," Jennifer said. Encouraging young people to talk about their hopes and dreams is something anyone in the community can do, the Search Institute says. Parents and professionals agree that support is the most important asset to development. Support assets are gateways to other assets, and the first six assets on the list are the most important of the 40, Peter Benson, the institute's president, told The Lutheran magazine in a February interview. The Lutheran Brotherhood helps fund the institute's research. "From a parent's standpoint, we try to give them the tools for success," said John Mize, who, with wife Karen, is the parent of two other children, Alison, 15, and Ryan, 12. "We try to expose (Jennifer) to different alternatives and then encourage her to try to do the best she can do." Sometimes parents get frustrated with adolescents, said Tommye Sexton, Salina South High School counselor. They get tired. "You can't make the choices for them, but you can tell them 'I am here for you, and I care about you,'" Sexton said. "They are worth the time and effort even when they are cruddy. I encourage parents to never stop showing that they care." Gary White, principal of Salina Alternative School, said that, ideally, support would come from the family. But for many children with whom White deals every day, that's not available. ABOVE: Active in the community, her church and her school, Jennifer serves as Salina Central's student council president. After a recent meeting, she checks to see if classmates have enough points to earn a letter In student council. LEFT: Jennifer goes over travel plans for spring break with her mother, Karen, In their kitchen. Family support was listed by the research institute as a major "external asset." "They need at least one person to support them," White said. "There needs to be at least one significant person in that young person's life to help them deal with their needs whether they are academic, religious or social." In many instances, parents are overwhelmed by providing for the basic needs of life. "When you have single parents who are working two jobs to support their families, they come home physically and emotionally drained," White said. The school often refers children to other services in the community that can deal with such needs as food and medical care. "Rarely are these children's needs just academic," he said. "... We have kids in needy, needy situations." Not all the students at the Alternative School are poor, he said. The students come from all economic backgrounds and have a variety of needs. "Some parents drive to conferences in Mercedes, and some walk because they do not have transportation," he said. 'We don't have bad kids' White takes the side of nurturing in the nature-versus-nurture argument. See SECRETS, Page B6 ENGAGEMENTS / B2 CROSSWORD / B5 MONEY / B8 B United Way considers list of assets Local organization believes building assets can help kids become self-sufficient adults By CRISTINA JANNEY The Salina Journal Salina Area United Way is following the lead of other U.S. cities that are using 40 developmental assets identified by a research institute in Minnesota to help make decisions on programming for children and families. The assets encompass such characteristics as values, self-esteem, family support and youth activities. The United Way sees building assets as a way to help children grow into self-sufficient adults, which is a top priority for the agency, said Ruth Ascher, executive director. David Norlin, United Way consultant, said the United Way hopes to use the assets approach to shift the community's focus from treatment of problems to prevention. The assets approach tries to get the community more involved in all children instead of focusing on those who are considered "at- risk," he said. "People in the community feel overwhelmed," he said. "They say 'I can't do anything about this. We need to hire someone to deal with this.' " That doesn't mean that professionals don't have their place in helping to solve problems in a community or that a community should abandon kids with existing problems, such as those of teen-age parents, Norlin said. United Way officials are beginning to evaluate how the programs funded by the campaign match up with the 40 assets deemed essential in the Minneapolis study. Programs such as parenting workshops sponsored by Child Abuse Prevention Services help build family support and help parents set positive boundaries, Ascher said. Scouting programs and Big Brothers/Big Sisters help give students positive activities and allow them to interact with adult role models, she said. Youngsters falling through cracks At a meeting in February, members of United Way agencies said they worried many children were falling through the cracks. The institute study said only 8 percent of the children on whom the study focused had 30 or more assets on a 40-asset scale. The average young person had 18 assets, and that number tended to decrease as the teens became older. Phil Guries, executive director of Salina Family YMCA, said he sees the same children again and again in programs and those children tended to be from mid- to upper-income families. "It is the kids that we can't get their parents to sign permission slips to be in activities that we really need to reach," he said. "When you have a parent who is trying to keep a roof over their family's heads, youth basketball at the 'Y' is not the biggest priority." The YMCA has tried to reach the most needy children by providing easy access to programs, he said. St. Louis Park, Minn., was one of the communities to participate in the institute study and realized by looking at its research that too many of their children were falling through the cracks. Officials were alarmed to find youth averaged only 16.7 assets, based on a 30-asset formula (at the time, only 30 assets had been identified, rather than 40). In 1993, St. Louis Park brought education, business, government, health care and religious groups together to address children's needs in the Children First Initiative. "We have realized that what we have done in the past hasn't worked," said Karen Atkinson, initiative coordinator, in a telephone interview. The program operates on a philosophy that all children are "at-risk" in some way. Community leaders have tried to reach out to all children but with the knowledge that some children will need more attention than others, Atkinson said. Minnesota mentoring program In St. Louis Park, that has meant bringing children and adults together in new ways. One professional woman in the community was concerned about middle school students, because middle school had been a difficult time in her childhood. She helped organize a mentoring group for middle school girls. A boys junior high group and girls high school group followed. Neighborhood associations have been formed with an emphasis on neighbors becoming involved with children in their neighborhoods. "What we are doing here is not rocket science," Atkinson said. "We are trying to get neighbors to care about kids and to say 'hi' to kids. There are a lot of things people who do not have kids can do." Local churches started tutoring and mentoring programs, a free baby-sitting program, community service programs and after-school activities. Atkinson said the community was most proud of its free health-care clinic created for children through the volunteer efforts of local physicians. Ascher said she hoped to create similar collaborative efforts in Salina, but that it would be difficult to change people's minds. "We know the assets approach is what it takes for a child and family to succeed," she said. "We need to ask what as a community we can do to make sure the assets are emphasized, instead of focusing on deficits " ... SUGGESTIONS? CALL BECKY FITZGERALD, LIFE EDITOR, AT (785) 923-6363 OR 1*OQ*827*§363 OR E-MAIL AT sjbflUgerald@8aljournal.com

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