More than 70 percent of Faribault area students are doing OK, according to a recent survey. Changing that trajectory, local officials say, will take more adults who are willing to offer kids their support, whether it’s through formal programs or on a more casual basis.

The Developmental Assets Profile survey was conducted at the end of 2017 by Faribault Youth Investment, an organization that strives to promote 40 assets laid out by the Search Institute as “positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed.”

Half of the 40 assets focus on external assets, or relationships and opportunities kids need in their families, schools and communities. The other half look at the social-emotional strengths, values and commitments that can be nurtured in young people, or internal assets.

“The more assets youth have, the more likely they are to succeed in school and life, as well as avoid risk behavior such as drug and alcohol use,” said Faribault Youth Investment Director Becky Ford. “Every year we want to see high numbers of Faribault youth with high numbers of assets in our survey results.”

Faribault Public Schools assisted Faribault Youth Investment by administering the survey. Students in grades six to 12 were asked to provide answers to 60 questions in the survey.

The results

The survey showed that 71 percent of Faribault area students fall in either the “adequate” range with a 60-point score between 42-51 or “vulnerable” which lands them between 30 and 41 points. 33 percent fell into the adequate range and 38 percent fell into the vulnerable range.

On the better end, 8 percent of students were identified as “thriving” and 21 percent, or 1 in 5 students, scored in the “challenged” range.

“I don’t think we are satisfied with 70 percent of our youth doing just OK,” said Ford. “As a community we want all of our young people to thrive in all of these areas.”

In Faribault, kids scored highest in the areas of Support, Empowerment, and Boundaries and Expectations. On the lower end, students fared worse in Constructive Use of Time and “Positive Identity.

Another positive that stemmed from the survey was growth in assets built in the family.

“We are extremely fortunate to live in a community that values strong family bonds,” said Shawn Peck, assistant principal at Faribault High School. “This support from loved ones is vital as students navigate the challenges in their lives.”

Overall, Ford said there is “room for improvement” in Faribault’s available assets, but “overall, our kids feel pretty supported by their families.”

Everybody’s job

When Ford drives around Faribault, all she sees are potential assets. From faith communities to custodians at school to neighbors sitting on front porches, Ford thinks more agencies, organizations and individuals can step up to provide more assets in Faribault.

“We often think it’s just parents and teachers and that’s where the list stops,” she said. “Really, kids benefit from any place where you can interact with adults and they can show them support.”

According to Peck, identifying the results of this survey is an important first step in seeing where these support systems exist and where they could.

“The first step in making effective change is to become aware of what changes need to be made, and this data allows us to make decisions in a more strategic way,” he said. “While I wouldn’t label the results as ‘great news’, it does paint a clear picture of what the young people in our community are experiencing.”

Peck identified that the survey doesn’t paint the rosiest picture of Faribault’s current standing, but he knows more can be done. Buckham Library Director and Faribault Youth Investment Board Member Delane James agrees.

“We live in a culture where bad news is prevalent and negativity seems to reign,” said James. “I’m proud that there are folks in Faribault who want to focus on what is going well for youth and utilize an assets framework for solving problems.”

Staying positive and avoiding a “deficit mindset” is also of importance to Shane Roessler, a counselor at the Faribault Area Learning Center and a Faribault Youth Investment Development Assets trainer.

“Building assets is positive, easy and allows everyone in the community the opportunity to participate,” he said. “It is important that all members of our community come to the table to discuss solutions.”

For Ford, the most important thing is making an effort. The community’s assets, she says, are easily solidified. However, for significant progress to be made, a community-wide buy-in is required.

“Assets are something where, if our community decided it’s something we wanted to grab a hold of and be intentional about, we would really see improvements,” she said.

Reach Reporter Gunnar Olson at 507-333-3128 or follow him on Twitter @fdnGunnar.

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