Page 1

40 Developmental Assets That Can Help You Be Your Best EXTERNAL ASSETS


Support Family support Positive family communication Other adult relationships Caring neighborhood Caring school climate Parent involvement in schooling Empowerment Community values youth Youth as resources Service to others Safety Boundaries and Expectations Family boundaries School boundaries Neighborhood boundaries Adult role models Positive peer influence High expectations Constructive Use of Time Creative activities Youth programs Religious community Time at home

Commitment to Learning Achievement motivation School engagement Homework Bonding to school Reading for pleasure Positive Values Caring Equality and social justice Integrity Honesty Responsibility Restraint Social Competencies Planning and decision making Interpersonal competence Cultural competence Resistance skills Peaceful conflict resolution Positive Identity Personal power Self-esteem Sense of purpose Positive view of personal future

Want to know more? Visit

That means that you have a certain powe whether you think so or not. You have the power to impact people and the world arou you. But let’s go further, let’s focus on how you can make that inner strength, intelligen and ability, feel more meaningful to you and the important assets about. This is what we mean by “make it real”. The “it” is the power within you. By staying true to your and doing what you believe, you make your personal power real. (Of course, this power grows stronger when we have a strong re

615 First Avenue Northeast, Suite 125 Minneapolis, MN 55413 612-376-8955 • 800-888-7828 The 40 developmental assets may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only. From Me@My Best: Ideas for Staying True to Yourself—Every Day. Copyright © 2003 by Search Institute; 800-888-7828;









Z For all of the powerful women who have touched my life— your faith and determination inspire me to dream big. —K.L.D.

Do You Wonder About…?


Me@My Best Ideas for Staying True to Yourself—Every Day Kalisha L. Davis and Ruth Taswell Copyright © 2003 by Search Institute All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever, mechanical or electronic, without prior permission from the publisher except in brief quotations or summaries in articles or reviews, or as individual charts or graphs for educational use. For additional permission, write to Permissions at Search Institute.

Search Institute 615 First Avenue Northeast, Suite 125 Minneapolis, MN 55413 612-376-8955 • 800-888-7828

Credits Contributors: Maya Babu, Eagan, MN; T.J. Berden, Traverse City, MI; Alix Fellman, Apex, NC; Nam Nguyen, San Jose, CA; Timothy Phillips, St. Louis Park, MN Production: Mary Ellen Buscher Design: Brad Norr Design

ISBN 1-57482-834-7 Story Sources Page 5: “Youth Editorial Gives the Real Deal on Asset Building,” Assets Magazine, Spring 1999, p. 4. Page 7: “Life-Size Maze Teaches Larger-Than-Life Lessons,” Assets Magazine, Autumn 2000, p. 3. Page 8: “ArtEffects” by J. White, Assets Magazine, Autumn 1998, pp. 7–8. Page 10 “Maynard High Students Find Niche on Airwaves” by L. Pappano, the Boston Globe, January 26, 2003. Page 11: “Halls Are Alive with the Sound of Rapping” by P. Edwards, News of Delaware County, February 12, 2003. Page 14: “The Battle for Self-Esteem,” Assets Magazine, Summer 1999, pp. 14–15. Thanks also to Tim, Molly, Mike, Josh, Rachel, Lemmy, LaTesha, James, Nathan, Sarah, Chelsi,Tony, Hunter, Christy, Mike, Jeremy, and Sara, who are behind the words at the beginning of each asset category; they contributed their thoughts on what they really want from adults in their lives for the poster set In Our Own Words.

About Search Institute Search Institute is an independent, nonprofit, nonsectarian organization whose mission is to provide leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities. The institute collaborates with others to promote long-term organizational and cultural change that supports its mission. For a free copy of The Asset Approach, which provides an easy-to-read overview about developmental assets, call 800-888-7828.

you’re wondering about these things, you’re not alone; they’re questions most people want to figure out, especially as teenagers. How you answer these questions is part of what makes you unique—and can help you pursue your own dreams.


Trying to figure out the answers can be difficult and confusing, but there’s a lot that can help you along the way.

The choices you make and the way you live your life, including doing your best in school and staying healthy and safe, are strongly linked with having what researchers call developmental assets. Grouped into eight categories, the assets are positive qualities, skills, characteristics, and experiences that everyone needs.


Me@My Best is about how building these eight categories of assets in yourself can help you discover how to live the life that you want and deserve—even at those times when you are struggling.

This booklet helps you reflect on what those assets are and what they can mean for you. Being your best is not some final place you get to when you become an adult, but something you strive for throughout life. By focusing on assets, you can tap into your individuality and better aim to be your best—a person who makes the most of every day with a positive attitude; a person others look up to, count on, trust, and respect.

“It’s one thing to be appreciated by your peers,” says 19-year-old Nam Nguyen of San Jose, California. “It’s another thing to be recognized and acknowledged by adults . . . given meaningful roles . . . and invited to give your perspective.” 3

many times have you thought these words, felt them, said them? They’re what other young people like you have said support means to them and how they really want to get it from their friends, family members, and the other adults in their lives.



did you


Of 614 young people (ages 12–17) surveyed across the nation who say they have an adult outside of their family who cares about them, 46% report that they help children younger than them “very often.” Feeling supported helps people support others. Grading Grown-Ups 2002: How Do American Kids and Adults Relate? by Search Institute (2002), Minneapolis, MN, p. 6.


A Story of Support


what about

“I wish I had known you and this group before, because if I had, I wouldn’t have ended up here,” said one teenage inmate at a juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing, Minnesota. He was speaking to 19-year-old Maya Babu of Eagan, Minnesota. Maya and other members of the Minnesota Alliance with Youth and some Tibetan monks had come to talk with the teens in the facility about conflict resolution and to make peace flags. “I was really touched by what he said,” says Maya. “It was a good reminder that asset building really speaks to the idea of supporting youth so they can contribute successfully to a community.” Because of the visit, the teen felt supported in a way he previously hadn’t and recognized something new: despite his past poor choices, he realized he still had opportunities to make positive choices and to make his life different.


you sometimes feel as if adults don’t give you a chance to try something? Feeling encouraged to try new ideas and activities using your own talents can help you feel empowered. But empowerment is also about feeling free enough from worries or fears to use those strengths even when you don’t get the encouragement you want.


A Story of EMPOWERMENT “We’re not out to get adults . . . Stop and talk to youth. You might be surprised by what we have to say!” wrote 14-year-old Tanis Henderson and 15-year-old Laura Hildreth in an editorial in their Minnesota community newspaper, the Grand Rapids Herald-Review. Frustrated with adults treating their friends, whom the adults didn’t know, with “weird looks” or judging them for their pierced noses, green hair, or “different” clothes, Tanis and Laura decided to speak out. They had talked about the problem with fellow members of Move It Forward, a committee focusing on building assets in the community. Encouraged by the committee to write about the adults’ judgments and exercise their freedom of speech, they did.

Ask yourself:

S What kind of support do I need that I’m not getting? Who can I turn to for that support?

S Am I supportive to the people I care about?



how DO

build support?


Work on forming the good relationships you need. For example:


All of us need to feel loved, cared for, appreciated, accepted, and included. Support is about being there for others, and others being there for you.

WHAT about

getting and giving support


Ask yourself:

S In what way do I feel comfortable saying my opinions? S Who takes my ideas seriously? Do I tell her or him how important that is to me?

When you feel unsure about how to connect with someone, try telling a little bit about yourself to get started. You could say, “I just heard the best song,” and see where that leads.

Feeling and Being Empowered

Be respectful of what the other person prefers. Some people are comfortable asking for help; others would rather you offer.

All of us need to feel that others believe we have something to contribute and allow us to do so. Empowerment is about dreams and opportunities.


A Story of Boundaries and Expectations

When you’re feeling powerless, find constructive ways to resolve the problem rather than just complaining.

At the 5,000-square-foot Teen Maze set up in the National Guard Armory in Prescott, Arizona, young people can safely experiment with certain choices in pretend yet lifelike scenarios. The maze also helps teens better understand why a grown-up may have a particular expectation or set limits like curfews and insist that you not drink and drive. When you know what the negative consequences might be, you may find it easier to make positive choices. In one maze setting, a graphic simulation lets you feel what it’s like to drive drunk, crash into a tree, awaken to paramedics strapping you to a body board, and fade in and out of consciousness. In another setting, you learn about some of the results of sexual activity by wearing an apron filled with heavy sand over your belly and caring for a needy “baby” using a computerized infant simulator. The purpose is not to judge, according to Diane DeLong, program director of the Teenage Pregnancy Program. Her teenage daughter, Brynn DeLong, added that the maze helps prepare you for these kinds of decisions in real life.

Do an activity with someone you admire. It may make it more likely that you’ll stick with it.

When teens believe that it is within their power to do things to improve the welfare of others, they have a higher volunteer rate than average (at least 70% compared with 59%). Feeling empowered helps you want to use your skills to serve others. America’s Teenage Volunteers by M. Hamilton and A. Hussain, Independent Sector (1998), Washington, DC.



the rules parents, teachers, or other caring adults make for you seem to be for your safety or to keep you from having fun or trying new things? How do you know when someone believes in you? You probably get conflicting messages at home or school, from television and your friends, about what’s okay to do, so figuring out choices can be difficult. The people who are concerned about you and your safety will tell you lots to avoid, like alcohol and other drugs, or early sexual activity, because they can be dangerous. Sometimes, you probably follow their advice, and sometimes you may make choices not because you really want to do something but because you’re feeling angry, stressed, bored, depressed, or curious. Feeling pressured by others or wanting to fit in may also affect your choices. It may help to think about the boundaries and expectations other people have for you in this way: When the rules and consequences for breaking those rules are fair and consistent, it’s easier to follow the rules and stay safe. When people’s expectations are based on wanting the best for you, you can value the expectations as showing that other people care about you and want to help you.



Ask yourself:

S Who believes in me? What do they know I can do well? S Are the boundaries and expectations others have for me fair or unfair? Why or why not?

Setting Boundaries and Living Up to High Expectations We all need to know that what is expected of us is reasonable and challenges us to do our best. Sometimes adults need help seeing that you’re ready to have more responsibility and freedom. Being patient and willing to negotiate and showing respect and responsibility will make discussions about boundaries go more smoothly.


what DO

Boundaries and Expectations Look LIke?

did you




Think about what you’re willing to work on. For example:



did you

how DO




Talk about what works for you rather than making assumptions about what others think about you. For example: Think about a time when you were really proud of yourself because you tried hard. Remembering such times can help you keep on having high expectations of yourself.

Of 1,838 middle and high school students surveyed around the country, those who say they talk with their parents regularly and openly about important issues are more likely to try to live up to their parents’ expectations. Teens Today 2002 by Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving Drunk and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group (2002), Marlborough, MA.

Me@My Best: Ideas for Staying True to Yourself—Everyday  

At last! A booklet designed to introduce Developmental Assets to the very people who stand the most to benefit: youth!

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you