By Patrick Winderl
The results of a survey given to Havre students were nearly identical to the nationwide averages of students from the same age group, and there's some good news and bad news in that.
According to the survey, administered to children in grades six through 12, only one in four students recognize a positive adult role model, and only one in five feel safe and encouraged at school.
One out of every three students polled admitted to having been in trouble with police in the past year.
The survey also elicited positive reponses. The vast majority of the students feel they take personal responsibility and are optimistic about their future. Nearly half of students report "having a high self-esteem", and "seek to resolve conflict nonviolently."
The results were released Monday night in a presentation at the Boys & Girls Club at the former Devlin School. The survey was given to 1,038 Havre students in both Havre Public Schools and at St. Jude Thaddeus School. Author James Vollbracht of Bozeman gave the presentation.
The survey was conducted by Search Institute as part of the Healthy Communities Healthy Youth program, which was founded by the Lutheran Brotherhood in 1996. The program promotes asset building within communities. Assets are defined as "the positive building blocks that young people need to grow up to be healthy, principled, caring adults."
The presentation began with an opening statement from Havre Mayor Bob Rice. "I think this is a wonderful program", he said. "Too much of our popular culture is vulgar and violent. ... We have become a nation of spectators."
Vollbracht, who has four children of his own, spoke about the importance of assets within a community. "Our number one goal needs to be the restoration of the asset structure in our own back yard. It is time to recognize the power of relationships to make a difference," he said.
He shared stories based on personal experience and from other communities that have participated in the program.
Vollbracht then used an overhead projector to explain the results of the survey. The assets of students are counted on a scale of 1 to 40. Typically, girls have more assets than boys, and the number of assets tends to decrease with age. The results also showed that students with a high number of assets are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior. For instance, those students with 31 to 40 assets are 10 times less likely to be sexually active as those with less than 10 assets.
Six percent of the youth reported that they had from 31 to 40 assets, 26 percent said they had from 21 to 30, 44 percent said they have from 11 to 20, and 24 percent of students said that they had fewer than 10 assets.
Students in Havre with 31-40 assets are 10 times less likely to be sexually active than those with fewer than 10 assets, according to the survey. Ninety-three percent of students with 31-40 assets say they "maintain good health" and "value diversity," as opposed to only 30 percent of students with fewer than 10 assets. Kids with fewer than 10 assets are four times more likely to skip school, shoplift and commit vandalism than those with more than 31 assets, the survey said.
Of all the Havre students surveyed, 58 percent reported they are motivated to do well in school, 42 percent do one or more hours of homework per night, and 25 percent read more than three hours a week. Forty-one percent believe that it is important to avoid sex, alcohol and drugs. Sixty-one percent said they feel safe within the community.
Thirty-eight percent say they have hit someone in the past year, 18 percent report they have been involved in a group fight, and 13 percent report carrying a weapon for protection at least once during the past year.
Sixteen percent admitted to having engaged in anorexic or bulimic behavior.
According to Vollbracht, one of the most alarming at-risk behaviors is gambling.
"We have seen a significant increase in the number of students who reported that they gamble. Parents, you need to keep an eye on that," he said.
When Vollbracht completed interpreting the survey results, he had the audience separate into smaller groups. The groups were divided into five key areas of asset building: community, family, school, faith community, and neighborhood. The groups generated thoughts on how to increase assets both formally and informally.