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Assets alive in community

United for Youth helps put Search Institute's forty developmental assets to work in local area

By Ed DuBois

The idea that it takes a village to raise a child was widely embraced a few decades ago, and in Wright County during the 1990s, forty developmental assets compiled by the Search Institute in Minneapolis served as a catalyst toward the start of efforts to better support, guide and influence young people as they are growing up.

One of those efforts, United for Youth, was a community initiative in the Buffalo, Hanover and Montrose area during the late 1990s, and it continues working today as a Wright County Family Services Collaborative (WCFSC) partner.

The WCFSC is a partnership of 10 Wright County school districts and 6 county-wide agencies, including: a mental health center, special education cooperative, community action, corrections, public health, and social services.  They all work together to strengthen children and families throughout Wright County.


Partners in the community

During the past two decades, United for Youth has been working to strengthen children and families in many ways.  At the same time, several other organizations have served in specific areas.

For example, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon - Buffalo serves in the area of supporting military families.  You can find more information about the organization and its services on Facebook (BTYR-Buffalo), through the Buffalo Police Department or by calling Suzanne O'Dell at 763-682-4902.

MEADA (Methamphetamine Education and Drug Awareness) helps educate families, youth and citizens about the dangers of drugs and has been doing so since January 2004.  See to learn more.

Pay It Forward Academy, a MEADA empowerment program for middle school girls, was active from 2005 to 2015 and engaged seventh and eighth grade girls in discussions about topics such as: health and fitness, self worth, relationships, hygiene, goals and leadership, wardrobe, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, finances, and more.

Safe Schools of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District meets once a month during the school year and involves a wide variety of people from the community, including: probation officers, the Sheriff's Office, the County Attorney's Office, Health & Human Services, local educators, health care professionals, mental health professionals, city officials, and nonprofit representatives.  MEADA was developed from a Safe Schools meeting in 2004.

The Partnership for Youth and Families helps serve through prevention, education and support.  There are two main focuses, free workshops and a Children's Wright County Resource Guide.  The workshops have involved many topics, such as: suicide prevention, a nurtured heart program, mindfulness, perfectionism/anxiety, raising boys, grief, and zones of regulation.

A coalition called Wright Mental Health involved volunteers, mental health professionals and criminal justice representatives in efforts to raise awareness about mental health issues and mental health resources.  The goal was to help prevent suicide.


All fits forty assets

Everything these organizations have done revolved around the Search Institute's forty developmental assets, said O'Dell, who has been leading United for Youth.

"Everything we do today fits the forty assets," she said.

You might know O'Dell better as the office manager for the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce.  But her involvement with the community has gone far beyond her Chamber work.  Lately, she has been preparing to turn over the leadership of United for Youth to a successor.  She said the fiscal host of United for Youth is Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Community Education.

United for Youth has promoted the Search Institute's model of asset building through mentoring, communication, education, and youth activities, according to O'Dell.

The forty developmental assets are grouped into eight asset types: support (from caring adults in the family and beyond), empowerment (through youth service to others and giving youth useful roles), boundaries and expectation (backed by adult role models and positive peer influence), time (quality time and positive activities), educational commitment (students and adults engagement in school together), values (such as caring, honesty, responsibility, and restraint), social competencies (such as resistance skills and conflict resolution), and positive identity (personal control, self-esteem, sense of purpose, and positive view of personal future).  You can find more information at


Sidekicks and Café 22

In addition to branching off into the new organizations mentioned above, United for Youth created 19 locally-distributed posters covering topics (and assets) such as: smile, think before you post, impossible to fail, family dinners, gossip, reading, respect, visiting library, capable teens, domestic abuse, depression, investing in youth, etc.

In the past, United for Youth offered a Sidekicks program that involved youth-to-youth mentoring between high school and elementary school students.  From 2002 to 2003, United for Youth operated a site called Café 22, where middle school and high school students could hang out and get involved with activities in a safe, drug-free environment.

Another program, Arts in the Park, involves collaboration with Family, Youth, Community Connections (FYCC) of St. Michael-Albertville.  The program has been bringing summer art and reading to Hanover parks.


Community service groups

O'Dell wanted to be sure to mention the Buffalo Rotary and efforts by that organization to help serve youth, families and the community.  For over 50 years, the Rotary Club has been serving through programs, grants, hands-on activities, and involvement with projects such as: Adopt-A-Family, Toys for Tots, Capable Partners, and Salvation Army bell ringing.

O'Dell put in a plug for a few other local community service groups, as well, such as: the Buffalo Food Shelf, the Buffalo Hospital Foundation, the Buffalo Lions, Timber Bay, Bison Fishing Forever, the American Legion, and Love INC.


It takes a village

When you consider the many different organizations and initiatives at work in the community, you can see how the idea that "it takes a village to raise a family" is alive and engaged locally.  Just about all forty developmental assets are active and on the job as United for Youth and all the other groups and projects work to serve youth, families and the community.


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