Members of South East Cornerstone School Division's School Community Councils (SCCs) met recently to discuss the results of a division-wide student survey and how best to address the results at the school level.
The evening meetings took place at three different locations around the school division, with the first meeting in Weyburn on November 1. Also involved in the discussions were the SCCs from Holy Family School Division and partners Sun Country Health Region (SCHR) and the Southeast Regional Intersectorial Committee (RIC).
Discussions revolved around the results of the 40 Developmental Assets surveys taken by over 5,000 students in Grades 4 to 12 in February 2010. The results showed how many assets youth have experienced in their lives, with the numbers broken down into 40 categories that discussed everything from particular behaviours to how well students do in school. Research has shown the more assets a youth has experienced, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviours and the better they are to do in school. Conversely, the fewer assets a youth has, the more risks they will take in life.
SCCs had already received their respective school's survey results in June 2010, so the main purpose of the evening was to learn how they and their communities can build assets in youth and work with other SCCs on developing plans. The principal from Ogema School also made a short presentation on how that school has created a plan of its own to develop assets.
"Assets represent everyday wisdom. Having more assets increases the chances that youth will grow up healthy," said Amanda Dunbar, a co-ordinator with RIC. "We should strive to be (role models) for our youth."
Dunbar explained the largest survey ever undertaken in Canada was done among four school divisions in southern Saskatchewan. That good work has put Saskatchewan "on the map," and has made the province a true leader in asset building, not just locally but internationally.
Asset building begins within the community, where everyone accepts their responsibility to raise well-rounded children. In order to have more engaged, responsible, contributing members of society, Dunbar said, adults should help youth develop positive assets by learning their names, saying hello, having lunch or getting to know a young person better.
"It's even more challenging...to build assets with the paperboy, a youth at the grocery store or someone pumping gas," Dunbar said. "We need to develop a spark, that special quality, skill or interest that lights us up."
Every young person should have three adults - preferably not parents or family - who can nurture and affirm their spark. Mentors, teachers, and neighbours can help start a meaningful conversation with a young person, which can help grow that spark. This can translate into higher grades, higher school attendance, being healthy and being less likely to experience depression.
Janette Hoffman, with Sun Country, added communities need to see youth as "valuable resources" when building assets. Asset building doesn't just mean adults building assets for youth. It can also mean youth building assets for other youth. That can include youth being involved in decision-making and being more involved at schools.
"The key things are to educate students about those assets. Post the assets on the fridge door (or) have a meal together once a week," she added. "Don't watch as much TV as a family. Learn as much as you can about youth. Asset building is an ongoing process. Children need assets throughout life. This is not a one-shot deal."
Some of the assets, which are broken-up into internal and external categories, include reading for pleasure, planning and decision making, positive peer influence and adult role models.