Strengthening the mind, spirit and bodies of today’s youth is a challenge in today’s fast paced world. As families and communities look to one another for the answers, there are new models taking shape which address the core assets that today’s youth need to develop into healthy adults.
In developing its programmatic direction for the future, the YMCA of Talbot County has adopted the framework of the Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit whose mission is to advance the well-being of adolescents and children by generating knowledge and promoting its application. The framework identifies 40 Developmental Assets®, which are positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.
According to Robbie Gill, CEO of the YMCA of Talbot County, “These assets clearly show important roles that families, schools, congregations, neighborhoods, youth organizations, and others in communities play in shaping young people’s lives. They provide a powerful framework for how YMCAs engage with children, youth, families and communities.”
The 40 assets are both identified as external and internal assets. External assets for youth include a youth’s levels of support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. Internal assets include a youth’s commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity.
According to the Search Institute’s research of 2 million sixth through twelfth graders, the more assets young people have, the better their chances for contributing to their society and finding a meaningful purpose in life. The average young person surveyed has 18.6 of the 40 assets, with only eight percent of the youth surveyed having at least 31 of the 40 assets.
Gill adds, “Asset building is an approach, not a program. It’s about how we deliver teen programs, school-aged programs, childcare programs, and family-life programs in ways that make a difference in the lives of young people and their families in our community. It’s about creating a YMCA culture that brings out the best in everyone: our staff, our volunteers, our donors, our members.”
According to Gill, the YMCA has always been in the business of asset building in keeping with its mission of “fostering opportunities for individuals, families, and community that strengthen spirit, mind and body for all.” Today, however, the organization has realized the need to expand its facilities and space to fully embrace this approach in its programming and to involving community members in its efforts. To address these needs, the YMCA of Talbot County is in the midst of $5 million capital campaign to add a Teen and Family Center to the side of its current location on Peachblossom Road in Easton.
For 16-year old YMCA member and employee Dontae Webb of Easton, the new Teen and Family Center will offer space for teens to just “hang out” with friends and have fun. Webb credits the YMCA with providing a positive, safe place to be during his teen years, away from drugs and violence. He comments, “Kids can be into unhealthy things in middle school and high school. The YMCA offers an alternative. It’s a great place to stay focused. You can’t stay focused on the streets.”
Webb began attending the YMCA in third grade for its basketball program. He later became a student member and attended the YMCA’s after-school program during grades six through eight because his mother and father worked and he needed a safe place to go. During this time, he played flag football and played in the game room. When he was in ninth grade, the YMCA began developing more after-school programs, such as classes to learn about being a DJ and basic cooking – things Webb really wanted to learn more about and in which he had an interest. By tenth grade, Webb was introduced to new outdoor recreational sports he had never tried before, such as kayaking, snowboarding, and downhill skiing. He also learned film editing through the YMCA’s summer camp program.
Webb credits the YMCA, however, with something more than just introducing him to new things. He comments, “The YMCA staff took a real interest in me. They always gave me a chance. I was a good kid and followed their rules. The YMCA helped build upon what my family had taught me and helped me become a more social person and a leader.”
Jim Fodrie, the outdoor director at the YMCA, helped Webb learn how to be a leader with the younger members and this spring, Webb was hired part-time as the YMCA’s golf cartchauffer, chauffering YMCA members from their cars when they have to park a distance away.
Ida Webb, Webb’s mother, comments about the importance of the YMCA in her son’s life, saying, “The YMCA has been great. It has done a lot for him. While he knew right from wrong, the YMCA helped keep him from the bad influences on the street and allowed him to be himself. I’d rather him be at the YMCA than anywhere.”
As Webb begins his senior year at Easton High School, his goal is to get into the business program at the University of Maryland – College Park. He reflects, “I think I’ll always be a member of the YMCA to keep myself in shape – both physically and mentally. One day, I hope to see myself famous and successful in some of our businesses.”
With the developmental assets he has acquired at the YMCA of Talbot County, Dontae Webb is on his way to realizing his dream.
For further information about the YMCA of Talbot County’s Capital Campaign or to schedule a presentation for your community or civic organization, contact F. Graham Lee at 410-822-0566.