Because we see education as a pathway out of poverty, it has been Sunday Friends’ goal to develop and refine effective ways to impart the developmental assets to children that build academic readiness and receptivity. The goal has been guided by the research of the Search Institute, which has demonstrated that 41 assets - values and experiences - directly support and predict healthy youth development as well as success in school and in life. Examples of developmental assets are: Adult Role Models, Achievement Motivation, Caring, Service to Others, Sense of Purpose, Responsibility, Integrity, Planning and Decision Making Skills, Family Support, Honesty and Positive View of Personal Future.
Since our early days of running programs within homeless shelters, we have observed that children living in poverty lack many of these necessary developmental assets. They arrive in our program with low opinions of themselves and little hope for their futures. Many are honing dysfunctional survival skills that they have been taught by their parents (who want the best for their children and may not have found better ways themselves). These survival skills, based on desperation, include claims of victimization as well as cheating and stealing. We learned that children tend to repeat the attitudes and lifestyles of their parents and that classes that teach new ways to children usually fail when the parents are not involved. Sunday Friends has developed a program that helps children replace these learned survival skills with developmental assets, to learn more functional ways to acquire what they want and to find satisfaction in giving their gifts.
We also learned that the individuals and families who live within poverty:
We have found that both children and parents discover and bring out their very best when given opportunities to contribute positively within a supportive community and to earn the items they most need in honorable ways. Children, as well as their parents, change their self-definitions, developing confidence and a desire to learn everything from English language to money management. We have seen that new attitudes cultivated through ongoing practice are necessary for families working to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
We see today that children are thriving within our supportive and structured environment. They are replacing bored, defeatist attitudes with confidence and enthusiasm about participating fully and learning. We believe – along with the Search Institute research - that these attitudes are prerequisites to success in school.
Our observations are backed up by biennial, professional survey-based evaluations of Sunday Friends that are conducted every two years. The Program Evaluations clearly show that families are developing self-confidence, self-worth and hope through Sunday Friends. They feel that these values empower them to become more productive members of the South Bay community. Parents report that their children are doing better in school, are more eager to participate, to learn and to give their best, are more willing to try new things, are happier, feel more successful and are more hopeful about themselves. By helping children to acquire these developmental assets, we instill school readiness in the preschoolers as well as greater receptivity in the school–age children to their schools’ offerings.
"In Sunday Friends, my children learn how to play with their friends and learn to share and expand their minds."— Sunday Friends Parent