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Assets workshop stresses necessity to forge bonds with today's youth

May 10, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Participants in the Youth Development and Developmental Assets workshop crowded around tables Thursday at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort, listening with fascination to speaker Clay Roberts.

Roberts, a former teacher from Washington state who provides such seminars around the country, is a senior consultant for Search Institute and has developed numerous national model programs dealing with children's health issues.

Roberts said he began conducting workshops when he realized "who delivered the program is more important than the program itself."

"Without a connection (to youth) the programs don't have much impact," Roberts said.

Roberts challenged participants, many of whom are teachers and school counselors, to make a commitment to developing assets in youth.

His list of 40 assets ranges from family support to family communication to high expectations, integrity, honesty, to a positive view of a personal future.

Assets are both internal, such as integrity, and external, such as a caring school environment.

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"This is about changing me," said Roberts of his challenge to the gathered audience. "It's a journey of personal transformation."

Roberts encouraged participants to "focus on whole human beings, not just a part of them."

He said an attitude shift, focusing on the positive in youth rather than the negative, needs to occur for all adults to become actively involved in youths' lives.

He added asset building is an intentional act.

While most people know what should be done to build up youth, many are not actively participating in youths' lives.

Roberts warned the participants that it is everyone's responsibility to build assets, not just parents or teachers.

"People who do work do three things. They develop relationships with kids, make connections with them and get to know them; there is a climate to support asset building and there are programs and practices to help asset building," said Roberts.

However, programs will not succeed without first having a "connection," or a relationship, with the youth, warned Roberts.

His challenge impacted Miriam Rubio, a counselor with the county Office of Education's student well-being and family resources department.

"It was just fantastic. I can't say enough about it," raved Rubio of the workshop.

As a counselor working with the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program's Steps of Success project, Rubio had heard of asset building but said it was a new experience to hear it "from the source itself."

In her work, asset building is "crucial," said Rubio, who took the challenge on a personal and professional level.

"It has to become a very intentional part of your life," said Rubio of asset building, especially when working with teen-agers.

She thought specifically of her own son and made a commitment "to start small … by not taking for granted the young people who are around me today. It starts right here at home and spreads from there."

Her sentiments were echoed by Mary Rangel-Ortega, a program specialist for the county Office of Education's student well-being and family resources department.

"You don't have to be someone who is around youth or students a lot," said Rangel-Ortega. "If we open our eyes, we can see all kinds of possible situations to get involved."

Although she had previously attended Roberts' workshops on asset development, Rangel-Ortega said each time she attends she learns something new.

"It helped raise my awareness," she said, adding, "Every time you go, you hear something different. It sets you back on track, refocuses you and re-energizes you to keep on going."

Roberts said his goal for his workshops is to get people "to change themselves and their personal behavior."

Roberts said his message is different from what is commonly taught, "Most research looks at kids who have failed and asks, ‘What went wrong?' This looks at kids who have succeeded and asks, ‘What went right?'

"Kids who have been in adverse situations and have succeeded have three things in common in their lives: an adult in their life, they've found their passion and peers who support their good choices," Roberts said.

"It is a risk to go out there and extend yourself," said Rubio of her decision to make a difference, "but the benefits far outweigh the risks."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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