Local advocates for Estevan's youth have formed a committee to promote the 40 Developmental Assets, and the benefits of the assets.
A brainchild of the U.S.-based Search Institute, the 40 Developmental Assets are described by the institute, and by its supporters, as the building blocks of healthy development, which help young people grow up to be healthy, caring and responsible.
The local 40 Developmental Assets Alliance wants to see more assets with Estevan's youth. The alliance boasts representatives from local schools, the ministerial association, the United Way Estevan, the Estevan Police Service, the Envision Counselling and Support Centre, the Sun Country Health Region, business leaders and others in the community.
The Sun Country Health Region has even hired an employee, Karli Gammack, whose focus will be on developmental assets. Other health regions in the province have hired employees with similar job descriptions.
Forty Developmental Assets Alliance members Sara Pippus and Sheila Guenther said that a survey of Saskatchewan youth a few years ago found that the average student had 18.5 assets.
"The more assets they have, the more successful they are down the road as adults, and even in their youth," said Sara Pippus, who is the school community coordinator at Hillcrest School. "The fewer assets they have, the more opportunity there is for negative things to happen when they're older. The rate of drug use, the rate of alcohol use and the rate of mischief with the law increase as the number of assets decreases."
In some Saskatchewan schools, the number of assets was as high as 22, Pippus said. But for many schools in Estevan, the average was lower than 18 – a startling figure that led to the alliance's creation.
"It was a good thing to know, but it was also a stark reality with what's happening to our youth," said Pippus. "There are a lot of kids slipping through the cracks, and we don't want to see that happen."
The alliance has been able to raise awareness about the importance of the assets, Pippus said. Not only is it good for parents to know which of these building blocks their children might have, but it's also good for other adults in the community to know how they can support other children.
They don't have a target for how many assets they would like each student to possess, but they want the average number of assets to be higher.
"Any improvement will make a difference," Guenther said.
A program such as the Hillcrest Breakfast Club can increase student asset count, Pippus said.
"When we first started, we had all sorts of goals about nutrition, behaving well and making sure they were taking good portions, and as we did it, we realized just how many of the assets were being met by bringing in community members and by finding support from their families," said Pippus.
About 32 assets are met by the breakfast club, Pippus said. She believes it's impressive when a program has 25 assets.
Activities such as sports, cultural groups and 4H clubs can also boost the number of assets for a child, they said, since they allow children to be engaged in activities that don't involve family members.
The 40 Developmental Assets are divided into two categories, external and internal. For students eight to 12 years old, external and internal assets are divided into four subgroups.
External assets are family, community and school support; empowerment of youth; boundaries and expectations from authority figures; and encouragement for constructive use of time.
Internal assets include: a commitment to learning; a belief positive values; the presence of social competencies; and a positive self-image.
A similar survey exists for high school students.
Pippus said it can be interesting for adults to reflect on their childhood and consider how many assets they possessed in elementary school or in high school.
The 40 Developmental Assets Alliance will be hosting a public meeting on Monday, November 26 at Hillcrest School, starting at 7 p.m.
"We'll talk a little bit about the meaning of the 40 Developmental Assets, and I'll go over some action strategies on how each individual person can help," said Guenther.
The alliance is still looking for members, Pippus said, and she would like to see representation from the City of Estevan and Estevan City Council.