Primary Sources: Nurturing Young People’s Interests to Foster Positive Outcomes

Photograph of sparklers.

"Adolescent Thriving: The Role of Sparks, Relationships, and Empowerment" (abstract). Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Volume 40, Number 3, March 2011.

What it’s about: The study surveyed a group of 15-year-olds across the country about their “sparks”—their deep passions or interests—and whether they had the support they needed to pursue them.

Why read it: The authors are from the Search Institute, which developed the 40 Assets model of youth development. In this study, they focus on three of the assets they believe are crucial for younger teens to have as they transition to greater independence.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, or socio-economic level, young teens who had a passion, caring adults to nurture it, and a belief that their voice mattered, had better developmental outcomes and were more likely to be involved in their communities. To build these strengths, the authors suggest that youth workers ask the following questions to every youth they serve:

1. ‘‘What is your spark?’’
2. ‘‘When and where do you express it?’’
3. ‘‘Who knows your spark?’’
4. ‘‘Who nourishes your spark?’’
5. ‘‘What gets in your way?’’
6. ‘‘How can I help?’’

Additional Reference: The Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota collaborated with the Search Institute to compile tools and training for mentors on how to support young people in nurturing their sparks.

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