After a survey of local high school students indicated that only 20 percent felt valued by the community, several adults began brainstorming ways to boost that number.
Local groups combined to form Community Values Youth, an organization dedicated to increasing feelings of value for youth in the community. Partnering with Project Cornerstone, a YMCA of Silicon Valley Initiative, and the Los Altos Community Foundation, the group examined the importance of developmental assets and how they contribute to a student either thriving or becoming at-risk.
The Search Institute, which helps organizations realize what children need to succeed, compiled a list of 40 developmental assets. Project Cornerstone, whose mission is to improve youths’ lives and experiences, added an additional asset to the list – positive cultural identity.
“Studies of more than 2.2 million young people in the United States consistently show that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to thrive,” states the Search Institute’s website. “Assets have power for all young people, regardless of their gender, economic status, family or race/ethnicity. Furthermore, levels of assets are better predictors of high-risk involvement and thriving than poverty or being from a single-parent family.”
Mona Armistead, a Community Values Youth leader, said the group is focusing on implementing the five following recommended assets to improve young lives in the community.
• Nonparental adult relationships: a young person needs support from at least three nonparent adults.
• Caring neighborhood: a child should experience caring neighbors.
• Youth as resources: engage local youth in useful roles in the community.
• Adult role models: contact with adults who model positive and responsible behavior.
• Youth programs: students spend at least three hours a week in sports, clubs or organizations at school and/or in the community.
“In the local schools, we have 51 percent of our kids either vulnerable or at risk,” Armistead said. “We want to help them by making sure that the community does in fact value them.”
She added that one of the areas they are focusing on is contacting the business community to suggest ways to be more youth-friendly. They plan to list the resources in town available to young residents so that students will know all the activities in which they can participate. Volunteers like the Los Altos Community Foundation’s Roy Lave want to work with neighborhood groups and spread tips for how to improve young people’s lives.
“We want to educate the community, neighborhoods and parents and merchants about the developmental aspects and the things they can do to show that they really do value the youth,” Armistead said.
The group is still in its early stages, and Armistead said she hopes more volunteers will want to be involved.
“This is the beginning of the campaign, and we really want it to grow and spread throughout the community,” she said.
The organization is planning a Facebook page for the campaign.
For more information, visit www.projectcornerstone.org or www.losaltoscf.org.