A National Program-Outcomes Study Conducted by Louis Harris & Associates

The Exploring program contributes to the healthy development of today’s young adults by providing them with the environment, resources, and relationships they need to learn and grow.

This study addresses the issue of how healthy development is fostered by addressing a key question that a growing number of organizations concerned with youth development have attempted to answer: What are the specific components or elements of youth development that contribute to healthy, positive outcomes?

Two organizations in particular, the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development and the Search Institute, have focused attention on desirable traits that youth programs should address.

The Carnegie Council, after a decade-long research effort, offers the following 10 conditions as “fundamental human requirements”* that must be met if children are to grow up to be healthy, constructive adults:

  • Develop sustained, caring relationships with adults.
  • Receive guidance in facing serious challenges.
  • Become a valued member of a constructive peer group.
  • Feel a sense of worth as a person.
  • Become socially competent.
  • Know how to use support systems.
  • Achieve a reliable basis for making informed choices.
  • Participate in the constructive (age-related) expression of curiosity and exploration.
  • Believe in a promising future with real opportunities.
  • Find ways of being useful to others.

Similarly, youth development researchers at the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have developed the following framework of developmental assets that give young people a strong foundation for life:**

  • Support – Receive support from family, teachers, and other adults.
  • Empowerment – Feel useful and safe.
  • Boundaries and expectations – Move in an environment with rules, structure, and high expectations.
  • Constructive use of time – Spend time creatively on hobbies, with friends, and in religious functions.
  • Commitment to learning – Engage in learning and spend time daily on schoolwork and other reading.
  • Positive values – Learn honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, as well as to care for others, and act on this knowledge.
  • Social competencies – Develop respect for others and become comfortable with people of different cultures.
  • Positive identity – Develop a sense of purpose and self-worth.

From the important youth-development variables identified by these two comprehensive sources, several common elements emerge. Integrating these common elements yields the following six critical elements of healthy youth development:

  1. Strong personal values and character
  2. A positive sense of self-worth and usefulness
  3. Caring and nurturing relationships with parents, other adults, and peers
  4. A desire to learn
  5. Productive/creative use of time
  6. Social adeptness

The results of this report demonstrate that the Exploring program addresses each of these important elements.