This past weekend, a local high school senior, Chris Nguyen, took his own life. Statistically, two young people between the ages of 10 and 24 kill themselves every week in Washington state, with another 17 making an attempt. Chris’ family asked that the news of his suicide be shared, because it is true and because they hope talking about his death will help prevent another family from suffering this loss.
Last year our school hosted a speaker from The Search Institute. Over the last two decades, the institute has researched and measured the key elements of child development that result in kids who grow into healthy productive adults. The 40 Developmental Assets is the result:
Over time, studies of more than 4 million young people consistently show that the more assets that young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to thrive. Research shows that youth with the most assets are least likely to engage in four different patterns of high-risk behavior, including problem alcohol use, violence, illicit drug use, and sexual activity. When they have higher levels of assets, they are more likely to do well in school, be civically engaged, and value diversity.
The positive power of assets is evident across all cultural and socioeconomic groups of youth in the United States as well as other parts of the world. Furthermore, levels of assets are better predictors of high-risk involvement and thriving than poverty, family structure, or other demographic difference. However, the average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets.
The average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets they need.
We can do better.
I had some incredible assets in my life. One of them was my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Daniel Naegeli. My senior year I had a free first period which meant I had an hour to kill every morning before my classes started. Mr. Naegeli welcomed me into his office each morning and we would drink tea and talk about all kinds of things. Without getting into a big sob story, I had some personal challenges and really needed positive adult influences in my life at that time. He provided that for me. He listened to me and respected my opinion. He also personally drove my college application to the University of Washington campus for me because I was so undecided that I waited until the last possible day to turn it in. I don’t know where I would’ve been without his support.
Just recently I got a chance to reconnect with Mr. Naegeli and tell him how much I appreciated what he did for me all those (20) years ago. He retired last June after helping countless kids become better adults. We just got together for coffee yesterday too:
It’s not just up to school teachers and counselors. We can all positively impact kids around us. Consistency, respect and time with kids and teens makes a world of difference to them, and ultimately, all of us.