PTA Moms

Being welcoming builds confidence in the social skills of youth.

As community-wide initiatives are promoted, there are typically natural partners who can quickly align with your goals. When talking about ways to help young people grow up healthy and successful, having a group of active and involved parents is a great start. Given the perceived complexity of the Developmental Assets program, having knowledgeable parents as partners makes it much easier to share ideas and help shape the culture of raising children.

As the framework for Developmental Assets was introduced to the city of Middletown in 2007, both Felicia Goodwine-Vaughters, Heather Haouchine and Jen Gorman were all instrumental in the implementation.

Felicia, who has participated in PTAs in Lawrence and Woodrow Wilson, learned about Developmental Assets and thought it would be an important discussion to have in both her child's school and the school she works in. The Middletown Youth Service Bureau visited and shared a 90-min presentation, focused on the results of Middletown's survey and a recently created list of asset priorities. The group selected two of the priorities, Restraint and Resistance, and created a WWMS t-shirt. To encourage youth involvement, a student contest was developed to come up with a slogan promoting both assets. The reach of Felicia's learning went far beyond the school setting as she was able to assess her own family. "I was able to see what my kids had and what they needed more of," states Goodwine-Vaughters.

As part of the Spencer School PTA Heather learned about the Developmental Assets in an informal presentation made before the survey statistics were available. This 30 minute talk focused on the perspective change that assets can generate and how small changes lead to big results. The idea of "the power of a smile" resonated with Heather and she used it to change the dynamic of the Spencer School office. Besides participating in the Spencer PTA, Heather also volunteers as a parent helper, giving her access to the Main Office of the school. While there, she started an experiment: say hello to every child who walked through the door, even if she didn't know them. Heather saw immediate results. Kids felt welcomed and her investment slowly yielded a growing number of returned greetings. Eventually, students recognized her and said hello first, building confidence in their social skills.

Past Wesley School PTA President Jen Gorman helped develop an ambitious partnership with the assets. Gorman dedicated each of the school year's monthly meetings to one of the eight asset categories. In conjunction to the 10-minute presentation to the parents, members of the YSB's Dragons In Action team discussed the same category with students who attended the meeting with their parents. The continuity in conversations increased communication between parents and kids and helped them effectively work together to increase assets.

Learning about Developmental Assets gives our community the framework we need for raising our youth in a positive way. The simplest changes make a big difference in the lives of our kids. Let's work together to build a better Middletown.

Providing youth the chance to learn skills and dedication.
Shifting thinking to focus on engaging youth development.
Collaborating with youth to discover the keys to success.
Being welcoming builds confidence in the social skills of youth.