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Positive influences. Integrity. These are two of 40 assets developed by an organization called the Search Institute. They are building blocks that can help children develop in positive ways.

When the Search Institute started conducting research more than 25 years ago, it might not have foreseen how popular its 40 Assets would become.

The Search Institute was founded in 1958 by Merton P. Strommen. It advocates positive values and positive influence for young people. The 40 Assets are 40 traits, behaviors or influences that, according to the Search Institute Web page, “help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.”

“The 40 Assets for Healthy Youth Development are those people, activities, experiences, and places that help young people grow up as caring, responsible and healthy individuals,” said Kathy Mobarak-Miller, the adult leader of the Amherst Youth Consortium.

The Amherst Youth Consortium – an organization that offers volunteering opportunities for teens – bases many of its projects and activities on these assets. Throughout the year, the AYC runs and helps out at events that are aimed at increasing the strength and number of assets in area youngsters.

In the summer, the AYC presents the assets to children at area day camps.

AYC members voted on which two assets to present to children over the summer: Asset No. 5, positive peer influence, and Asset No. 28, integrity.

Mobarak-Miller and AYC members Sara Galante, Miranda Lefebvre and Kate Pandolfino offered a presenation about integrity in early August to about a dozen students at the Williamsville Youth Center.

“Integrity is making good decisions even when it is hard,” said Sara, a senior at Williamsville South High School. “The kids started to understand integrity more throughout the presentation.

“It is important for kids to learn at an early age because they are not set in their ways yet,” Sara said. “It will help keep them out of trouble.”

Kate, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, agreed.

“Once you have practiced something your whole life that’s all you really seem to know,” she said. “If as children kids learn to be honest, they will continue practicing integrity throughout their whole lives.”

Each presentation over the summer was offered by different AYC members who were accompanied by an adult.

“It works best when there is a co-presenter partnership between an adult and youth,” Mobarak-Miller said.

An adult presenter and a teen presenter bring different skills to the table.

“Teens can change perspective, said Miranda, a freshman at Sweet Home High School. “Adults know more information. It gives it a balance and makes the presentation to kids more fulfilling.”

“They look to us as role models, and if we show them what integrity looks like, they will hopefully use integrity in their everyday lives,” Kate said.

Melanie Izard is a junior at Sweet Home High School.