Giving Our Children the Tools They Need to Thrive

YOU can positively influence the lives of the children in our community.  Research proves that possessing key traits, many of which are environmental, will help children thrive. These traits, coined by the Search Institute of Minneapolis as “Developmental Assets”, are critical for success: the more a child possesses, the less likely they will engage in risky behaviors and the more likely they will have a higher level of achievement.

Search Institute’s list, developed in 1990, includes 40 Developmental Assets which are the basis for numerous programs designed to help communities encourage
positive attitudes and actions, and avoid risky behaviors in their youth. Assets include support at home, caring school climate, feeling valued by the community, understanding boundaries and consequences, and having positive role models. For a complete list of the 40 Developmental assets, go to http://www.search-institute.org/developmental-assets/lists.

A survey of 3.5 million 6th-12th graders across the country revealed that all of our children are lacking assets- regardless of socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, or geographic location. Ideally, our children would have close to 30 or more assets to thrive. On average, 6th graders have 23 assets while 12th graders have less than 18. Only 8 percent of youth across the country have 31 or more assets.

Here in Santa Clara County, Project Cornerstone, a non-profit organization, has been working with schools and communities to help raise the level of assets, hence the level of success, of our local children. The statistics are revealing:

Project Cornerstone offers materials and resources that enable elementary schools and middle schools to help increase the number of assets our children possess. And it’s working! A 2011 survey of children in Santa Clara County in 4th-12th grade indicated the overall asset level has increased by 2 assets over a 5 year period (2005-2011).

Three of the schools in the Sunnyvale School District have implemented Project Cornerstone programs, and the district is hoping to roll out to all of its schools this year. Project Cornerstone offers classes for adults and children, and also has a very successful program in which parent volunteers meet with a class monthly to read books and do lesson plans. The lessons are designed to help give the kids the tools they need to improve their self esteem, resist bullying and ultimately increase achievement.

As parents, teachers, and community members, we can impact the children in our lives and give them a positive influence that can help them thrive. Some of the things you can do to make a difference include:

  •  Say “hello” when you walk by children in your community
  • Be a “trusted adult” who listens
  • Be a good role model
  • Let the children around you know that you care about them

By working together, WE can make a difference – both for our children and for our community as a whole.

For more information, please visit the Project Cornerstone website: www.projectcornerstone.org  and the Search Institute of Minneapolis website: www.search-institute.org.

If you are a parent interested in volunteering for Project Cornerstone, please contact the Principal of your school: www.sesd.org

Article by Reid Myers, with assistance from Soma McCandless