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Key Principles of Asset Building
Below are some general principles you can use to help your mentee (or any young person in your life) successfully build Developmental Assets.

  • Everyone can help young people build assets– not just parents, teachers, and people with college degrees in child and youth development. Whether you are an electrician or a singer, you have the power to be a positive influence in the life of a young person.
  • All young people need assets. Search Institute’s research shows that almost all young people need more assets than they have. Young people may have lots of friends or achieve high marks in school, but they may be lacking in other areas. Mentors can help them identify strengths and build the assets that are missing in their lives.
  • Relationships are key. Strong relationships between adults and young people, between young people and their peers, and between teenagers and children are central to building assets. As a mentor, you have a significant opportunity to make a difference in your mentee’s life, just by being there for him.
  • Asset building is an ongoing process. It starts when a child is born and continues through high school and beyond. It’s never too late to start building assets with and for your mentee, regardless of her age or what her life has been like up until now.
  • Consistent messages are important. It is important for families, schools, and communities, and others to give young people consistent and similar messages about what is important and what is expected of them. Mentors can play a critical role in exposing young people to positive messages, values, and examples; these messages can be modeled in action by the way you live your life and the way you and your mentee interact with each other and the world around you.
  • Intentional repetition is important. Assets must be continually reinforced across the years and in all areas of a young person’s life. As a significant adult in your mentee’s life, you have a great opportunity to continually reinforce the positive messages and experiences he needs throughout his young life-and beyond.


  • Remember that the focus of mentoring is on forming a relationship and being a positive adult role model. What you do during your regular visits with your mentee matters less than the fact that you are spending time together and providing your mentee with support and care.
  • Show your mentee that she is a priority by keeping in touch on a regular basis. Even if you cannot be together very often, write letters, send cards, talk on the phone, or send e-mail or text messages.
  • Let your mentee know that you care about things that are important to him. For example, if your mentee has a special friend or pet, ask regularly about how he is doing. If your mentee plays a sport, attend a game or match. If he sings or plays an instrument, ask for a personal recital once in a while.
  • Be flexible. If your mentee has ideas about things to do or ways to do them, let her take the lead. You don’t need a careful plan to build assets.
  • Get to know your mentee’s interests and hobbies. Help him find opportunities to get involved with organized activities or programs that use or develop those interests of hobbies.
  • Talk about and model your personal values. Encourage your mentee to think about the values that are important to her and how those values affect behavior and decisions.
  • Share a new experience together, such as fishing, visiting a local museum (some have days when entrance fees are waived or reduces), taking a class, eating at a new restaurant, or flying a kite.
  • Practice life skills together. For example, prepare a meal together and serve it to your mentee’s family or friends.
  • Emphasize the importance of a lifelong commitment to learning. Go to the library together and check out books to read together. Help your mentee with homework or find someone who can.
  • Talk about some of your hopes and plans for the future and ask about your mentee’s vision of the future. Share ideas with each other about how you can make your respective dreams come true. If it seems as if your dreams can’t or won’t come true, work together to come up with ways to deal with barriers.
  • Enjoy your time together and have fun!

Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®. From Mentoring for Meaningful Results: Asset-Building Tips, Tools, and Activities for Youth and Adults. Copyright © 2008 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN; 800-888-7828; All rights reserved.

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