concept of healthy communities has received a great deal of attention
in the past two decades. Adults often mention the characteristics
of healthy communities when they describe what they wish they could
see around them. They may not know that they are describing the
healthy community concept, yet they are very clear about what they
yearn for. The Search Institute has created a widely held definition
of a healthy community as one in which young people engage in a
small number of at-risk behaviors.
behaviors are actions that are likely to cause negative outcomes
for youth and the community, like illicit drug use, early sexual
activity, and violence. According to research by the Search Institute
and others there are forty positive experiences and qualities that
make communities healthy and help the youth in these communities
make wise decisions and choose positive paths. These forty positive
experiences and qualities are called developmental assets. Many
experts believe that economic vitality and opportunity, accessible
services for children and families, protection of people, property,
and the environment, and physical infrastructure must be coupled
with shared commitment, everyday acts of asset building by individuals,
and intentional asset building in organizations, institutions, and
forty developmental assets are grouped into eight categories.
shows that young people do best when they have at least 30 of the
40 assets. Many will ask, “ What can I do about this kind
of thing?” There are some simple ways individuals and groups
can help build assets and build healthier communities.
to know the names of youth who live nearby. Find out what interests
as a tutor, mentor, or youth leader in a youth-serving program.
time, talent or other resources to support community asset building
or strengthen programs or activities that build assets, such
as mentoring, service-learning activities, peer helping, and
about asset building with formal and informal leaders and other
influential people you know.
opportunities for youth to contribute to the community through
sharing their perspectives and taking action and leadership.
and honor the commitments of people who dedicate their lives
and time to children and youth.
your place of worship to actively involve youth in worship services.
opportunities to have serious conversations with young people
on important issues.
Challenge people who use negative stereotypes about youth.
praise and admiration when you see a young person make a good
decision, especially if it is a tough one.
of adolescents as “practicing” adults, teach them
something practical like how to change tire or fix a leaky faucet.
with a young person to do community volunteering.
court appointed special advocate (CASA) for foster children.
non-violent ways to resolve conflict.
your state legislator and your neighbors to your home to have
coffee and discuss youth asset building.
the media when they focus on youth issues in your community.
a youth issue’s tasks force with youth members at your
place of worship or civic organization.