The DeKalb County KEYS Initiative was founded in 2007 after a survey showed that youth in DeKalb and Sycamore are missing the positive relationships, opportunities, values, and skills— known collectively as “developmental assets”—that provide the foundation for a healthy, successful future. In general, the more developmental assets that young people possess, the more likely they are to avoid risky behaviors and engage in positive, healthy activities.
Ideally, the Search Institute states that all youth should have 31-40 assets. However, both national and local survey results indicate an average of about 18 assets per child. In DeKalb County, only 9% of young people are shown to have 31 or more assets, and 17% have 10 or fewer.
DeKalb County KEYS significant milestones include the following:
- Conducted Search Institute’s Attitudes and Behaviors Survey with DeKalb and Sycamore youth.
- Held a community leaders breakfast and presented results of survey.
- KEYS and Kishwaukee Family YMCA reached an agreement to co-employ an asset specialist to carry out the growing needs of the asset building initiative and the YMCA.
- Group of volunteers conducted 87 presentations, reaching 1300 individuals
- Hired part-time asset specialist to manage the KEYS Initiative.
- Partnered with the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival committee to create the Youth Partnership Award. The Pumpkin Fest Youth Partnership Award was created to formally recognize a local business or organization that engages youth in their Pumpkin Fest parade float making process.
- DeKalb County Community Foundation started Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP), a youth grant makers program, for the purpose of empowering youth. YEP members chose to adopt the assets framework as a requirement for grants. In their inaugural year (2010), they influenced seven organizations to intentionally develop assets with youth.
- Sponsored KEYS youth essay contest. Youth wrote essays about an individual in their life that has made a difference to them. Prizes were awarded to top three finishers and 100 essays were complied into KEYS published book “Everyday Heroes in DeKalb County”.
- Held first annual Asset Builder’s Awards Ceremony
- City of DeKalb issued proclamation in support of the DeKalb County KEYS Initiative.
- KEYS issues second annual Pumpkin Fest Youth Partnership Award
- Held second annual Asset Builder’s Awards Ceremony
- Held first annual “Who’s Got Talent?” youth talent show
The efforts of the DeKalb County KEYS Initiative serves all residents of DeKalb County as well as businesses, community organizations, schools, churches, and youth serving groups.