Aspen summit will put focus on the community’s youths |

Aspen summit will put focus on the community’s youths

A Dec. 8 “Youth Summit” in Aspen will be a chance, organizers said this week, to begin to revitalize the connection between young people and their community.

The summit is being held at the Given Institute of the University of Colorado, at 100 E. Francis St. in Aspen, with help from a wide range of local organizations and agencies, including the Aspen Buddy Program, Pitkin County Health and Human Services, Aspen Valley Hospital, the Chipeta Girl Scouts Western Slope Council, The Aspen Times and others.

It is meant to be a public event, drawing participants from area families, youth organizations, schools, businesses and more.

“We’re talking about people taking time to find out about the kids in their communities … putting kids in the center of everything we do,” declared Nan Sundeen, of the county health and human services agency.

The summit, according to Sundeen, is partially an outgrowth of a statewide program called “Assets for Colorado Youth,” founded three years ago by the Colorado Trust, a nonprofit institute that has been working with the child-development model developed by Dr. Peter Benson, Ph.D.

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Benson, who came here two years ago to speak about his “40 Assets” model of child development, will be the keynote speaker at the local summit.

Both the “40 Assets” model and the Assets for Colorado Youth are predicated on the assumption that there are 40 different attributes or “assets” that a child needs to develop in healthy ways.

These assets are both “internal” and “external,” and among the external assets are such things as family support and communication, adult relationships with others besides the immediate family, an understanding that the community at large places a high value on its youth, the existence of creative activities and a religious community that get kids involved.

Among the internal assets are motivation and bonding with others at school, responsibility and restraint in one’s personal behavior; skills to resist unhealthy or unacceptable influences, and self-esteem.

According to Sundeen, a survey of kids in this region a year ago revealed that they believe they possess only 19 of the 40 assets.

One consistent complaint, Sundeen said, is that there are not enough creative outlets for teenagers that do not involve sports.

This has left kids with the feeling that, “If you’re not an athlete, you’re not valued by our community,” Sundeen said.

The summit will also include workshops on such topics as building self-esteem and social skills, creativity, youth volunteerism, spirituality and “a sense of purpose,” diversity and tolerance, “substance signs and symptoms” and the 40 Assets, all conducted by experts from around the region.

Mary Ellen Sheridan of the Buddy Program, one of the summit’s organizers, noted that much of the thinking about area kids these days is along negative lines.

“This is a very positive model,” she said. “If we can get the community excited in a positive way, rather than focusing on [kids’] problems and shortcomings, that would be a very marvelous outcome.”

The summit is free and has been scheduled for the evening, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Given Institute manager Janet Ferrara said a limited amount of free child care is available for parents. Child care can be arranged by calling Ferrara at 925-1057.

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