My series of articles this year is focusing on Developmental Assets, which are, according to the Search Institute, factors all youth need to thrive and that are critical for their growth and development. At the Buddy Program we weave these assets into our work with youth and families as well as with volunteers who work directly with these youth.
Empowering is a big word around the Buddy Program. In fact, we just revised our mission to state: “The Buddy Program empowers youth through mentoring experiences in order to achieve their full potential.” Empowering youth is the second asset as defined by the Search Institute and they break down empowerment in the following ways:
• Community values youth: Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
• Youth as resources: Young person is given useful roles in the community.
• Service to others: Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
• Safety: Young person feels safe at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.
In an effort to continue to empower youth in the Buddy Program, we recently launched the “Love your Community” initiative at the Buddy Program, encouraging the youth in all of our programs to give back to the generous community that has supported them in so many ways. On April 19, we hosted a day of service, where youth and their parents and/or mentors engaged in a variety of community service activities and learned that even random acts of kindness can go a long way. Additionally, in our Outdoor Leadership class at Roaring Fork High School, an entire quarter was dedicated to service learning. Teams of students supported community service projects such as Huts for Vets, CARE and raising funds to support an ill teacher.
As school shootings, stabbings and continued violence amongst youth in our society seem to become commonplace, I hope that we can all take a moment to pause on our role in empowering youth. Perhaps our small efforts can make otherwise isolated and lonely youth feel empowered that they are not only safe in their home, school and neighborhood, but that they can also have a positive place in our community and they can make a powerful difference in a positive way.
For more information on the Search Institute, visit www.search-institute.org.
— Lindsay Lofaro is assistant director at The Buddy Program.