John W. Arceneaux | 4/19/2005 10:28:32 PM
A youth’s character development is a journey greatly influenced by his or her environment. The journey can affect youth both positively and negatively, in ways they realize and in ways they don’t, according to LSU AgCenter state 4-H character education coordinator John Arceneaux.
The Search Institute (www.search-institute.org), an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide leadership, knowledge and resources to promote healthy children, youth and communities, has identified 40 developmental assets that need to be part of youth’s environment to enable them to grow up healthy, caring and responsible.
Arceneaux says these assets are building blocks of development, which the Search Institute divides into external and internal assets, each consisting of five categories. The external assets are support, empowerment, boundaries, expectations and constructive use of time. The internal assets are commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity.
Arceneaux explains that youth whose lives are framed by these assets and positive role models feel safe and are able to grow to their potential and become contributing members of society. He says the challenge for parents is to involve their children in activities that offer these assets.
The LSU AgCenter 4-H program, a school intra-curricular activity, provides these assets through experiential education delivered through 4-H club activities for club members and school-enrichment programs for other students.
"Character education is one of Louisiana 4-H’s school-enrichment programs, and one important component of the program is youth serving as Character Counts! trainers," Arceneaux says, adding, "Louisiana leads the nation in youth who serve as Character Counts! trainers."
Each month, schools with youth trainers teach one of the six pillars of character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – to younger youth or their peers. Teachers reinforce the aspects of the pillar in their classes throughout the month. Positive results are being realized across Louisiana.
Research shows regular participation in activities that support the 40 developmental assets can lead to long-term character development benefits. Being a Character Counts! youth trainer and being an active 4-H member support such assets.
Studies reported in the "Journal of Adolescent Research" find teens who are involved in extracurricular activities are 70 percent more likely to go to college, which, in turn, can increase their potential lifetime earnings. These youth are 66 percent more likely as adults to vote and 50 percent more likely to volunteer in their communities. Youth participation in extracurricular activities is worthwhile for youth and as a social investment - the benefits spread throughout communities.
"Youth are required to go to school, but they join 4-H and become Character Counts! youth trainers because they want to," Arceneaux says, adding, "4-H is fun. The educational activities interest youth, and youth gain identity by being part of something which is positive and bigger than they are."
The character education coordinator encourages school personnel, parents and concerned citizens to contact their parish LSU AgCenter office to learn about 4-H and the character education materials. In addition, he recommends visiting the Louisiana 4-H Web site: http://www.louisiana4h.org/.