PASS THE TORCH (old site -- visit new site at

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness are Contagious

I started a game of Blog tag in Saturday's entry . Already the word is out and Random Acts of Kindness are spreading like the ozone hole through the blogosphere.

Laurie's RAOK posts ROCK!! Check out these kind posts (Send me a link to your Random Act of Kindness and I'll add it here):

Laurie's blog - Peregrinas

Fahim's blog - Art Addiction

You can read Jenn's, September's and Susan's RAOK here until they blog their experience.

Need an idea? Here's a great blog with about a zillion of them. Check out Dare to be an Angel.

If you read this, consider yourself "tagged":

Do something GOOD;
Tell everyone about it in your blog;
Tag someone else.

(Then come back and tell me about it)



Absolute Write is accepting donations to get the site running again. Go to Hot Diggity!: Need help. for more information. Or you can use the image below to buy her book.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

YOU'RE IT!!! Save Absolute Write with Random Act of Kindness

Today I'm wearing my "Writer's" hat.

Absolute Write, an online forum I've come to call digital home has been figuratively hijacked, sending thousands of writers into a tailspin. Jenna Glatzer, the owner of the board, is a lovely person who defends the interests of fellow writers and works hard to protect them from scammers. For more information about this mess, follow any of the links or tags below and read what people are writing about Absolute Write.

Before the site disappeared, bloggers on the forum were talking about a way to initiate a blogging effort that would connect people across the globe. Well, that has definitely happened in the form of this really nasty situation, but we had some very inspirational efforts suggested as well. The suggestion I made was for everyone to do some random act of kindness, write about it on their blog and then tag someone else. I got the idea from Jenna's blog entry from a couple weeks ago. I know that Jenna liked this idea. What if we tried to corral all our energy and direct it in a positive way?

I'll start. Today I mowed my neighbor's lawn, without saying a word. I knew it would be really hot and they had company coming for the weekend. I have a riding lawn mower and he doesn't. It wasn't a big deal for me, but it WAS a big deal for him.

Secondly, I bought Jenna's book The Street Smart Writer, because Jenna helps writers. Ordering from the link here also gives a kickback to Absolute Write.

So now I'm going to scurry around to all my blogging friends and tell you that you're it. You are all supporting Jenna and Absolute Write already. But this would be another way to support her -- and the rest of the world as well.

So here's your assignment:

Do something GOOD;
Tell everyone about it in your blog;
Tag someone else.

Okay?? YOU'RE IT!!!

Dawno's Blog NVNC ID VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES: Dawno's Top Ten "20 Worst Agents List" List Midnight Writings: Special Olympics Fireflies in the Cloud: The Barbara Bauer Googlebomb: success (well, almost)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Readers' Favorite Posts

The Human Google Search

Meet Harry

Blue Streak, Mom and Me

Sneak Reading

An Exercise in Perspective

Lawn Boy

Independence Day Tent Owners

Take Your Kid to Work Day


Wiener Whiner

Recipe for the Ideal Parent

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Exercise in Perspective

A common structure throughout the country is the screened-in porch. In the Midwest, our summers are blissful, but also plagued by everyone's least-favorite pest, the mosquito. Mosquitoes are opportunistic creatures that can always seem to find even the smallest hole in order to venture into our homes.

Here's an exercise in perspective. As people looking out of the porch, we see a screened barrier of tightly woven wire. But imagine yourself as the tiny mosquito. Even the most insignificant hole can serve as a huge portal into the comforts of home.

Which do you see? The screen, or the hole?

As we grow older, we gain experiences and learn valuable information about the world. Each piece of learning weaves a part of the screen, providing a realistic look at what can and cannot happen. It is vital that our society has people who see the screen.

Likewise, our society needs those who see the hole, the possibilities, who don't get sidetracked by why something won't work. These idealists are often the catalysts for change.

The inexperience of youth sometimes makes it more possible to see the hole in the screen - what can happen, rather that what cannot. It is the empowered young person that can use this unique ability to make a positive impact on our community. And it is the wise adult who listens to this perspective and works together with youth to discover a possible solution.

We must face the future hand in hand, together with those who see each part of the screen. And mending the hole may not be the best way...

Copyright 2002 Kelly Curtis

This article is available free for reprint. Just include this copyright line, including our website address - . Please send a copy of the reprinted article to Empowering Youth, Inc.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Include youth on your interview team

Many school districts are interviewing for school staff positions this time of year. And it's becoming more mainstream to include youth on interview committees. Youth input can be valuable in staff selection because their point of view is different -- they may notice important qualities that adult interviewers miss.

Here are a few suggestions for including youth on your interview team:

1. Instruct all students about confidentiality, etc, prior to their involvement.

2. Diversify the students you ask to help. While "high-fliers" may be excellent for much of the process, don't forget about the artists, auto mechanics and even those that spend their afternoons in detention from time to time. The key is to get a cross-section of empowered youth.

3. Use the academic "high-fliers" in the question/answer part of the interview process. If each member of the panel has pre-planned questions that are asked of each interviewee, youth can select the questions they'd like to ask. If your process includes a scoring system or ranking, students can also participate.

4. Other empowered students can act as tour guides to candidates as they enter the building. At the end of the day's interviews, the tour guides can offer their impressions of each interviewee. Sometimes the information gleaned from tour guides is valuable. They see the not-in-an-interview candidate.

5. Your interview committee may choose to dismiss youth participants before meeting as adults for the final conversations and decisions. Youth input is valuable, regardless of the fact your team may need a chance to talk more candidly prior to making a decision.

Your district will find a method that works well in your system, but empowering youth in some way will enhance the process.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Absolute Write Blogroll

Hello Absolute Writers!

To increase exposure and improve rankings, I've started a blogroll that we can each post on our blogs. This is only for Absolute Write bloggers and it is very simple.

FIRST - Get the code at my Absolute Write post.

SECOND - Place the code on your blog. Once the code is in place, post a comment here with your Blogsite address, Blog name and AW name. I will check to make sure your code is working, then add you to the roll.

THIRD - Introduce your readers to your new blogroll and encourage them to read!

RULES -- This is a rated G blogroll. Not for the gross, or really profane.

That's it! Thanks for joining!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Empower young bloggers to LINK US UP!

Fellow blogger and Asset Builder, Richard, contacted me to suggest tagging my posts with hchy (the tag for Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth) where appropriate. I thought this was a great idea, so visited technorati to do so.

But his and mine are the only blogs tagged.

So I started thinking this could be a great summer challenge for all Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth initiatives. Youth tend to have far better computer skills than their adult counterparts, so why not ask them to help us blog this summer?

Between Blogger, MySpace, and all the other free sites out there, I think we could have a significant web of Asset Builders by the end of the summer. If we tagged our posts, we could stay connected with a blogging community.

Just one quick Blogger search of the terms "developmental assets" results in several pages of matches, including:

Mountain Masala

Darien Community Matters and

Peg Kerr's Journal

Portage County Alliance for Youth

I think this is an untapped opportunity.

What do you think? Please comment!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ahhhh, Mother's Day

Most mothers have a story or two about the gifts they receive on this most appreciated holiday. It's a day to celebrate the unbridled creativity in young people -- oh, and the women that birthed them.

Often teachers, fathers and grandparents help kids to create lovely gifts. But I've found that the most heartwarming surprises are those that are accomplished with no adult intervention whatsoever.

My kids are 7- and 9-years-old, so they've had years to refine their creative skills. This Mother's Day, my favorite surprises were:

1. A dried paper-pulp heart made from construction paper and water. They'd learned about this process in school, but he did it at home. (So that's why he asked me for the blender and I said, "no"... and why I had to unclog the sink last week!)

2. A cut-off water bottle filled with 10 days worth of loving rolled messages, accompanied by a poem. She modified this from something she looked up in a craft book.

3. A secretive dual effort I interrupted last Friday. They whisked me away from the kitchen because they didn't want me to discover they were making me puppy chow (Chex mix, peanut butter, chocolate and powdered sugar.) The best part of this gift was the fact they kept from eating the scrumptious gift for two days before giving it to me. (A serious feat for my sweets-addict boy.)

What was the most creative Mother's Day gift you received? Which surprised you the most? Please comment!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

10 Ways to Empower Your Kids this Summer

Here are ten ways to empower your kids this summer.

Ask them to:

Create a summer schedule that includes their interests and responsibilities;

Give them a calendar to organize possible outings and “must-do” activities;

Choose one extra weekly responsibility during the summer;

Share their ideas for family vacations;

Think of a way they’d like to volunteer or serve others;

Help you on your errands – grocery shopping, post office, etc. Find a way for them to have meaningful participation;

Prepare one or two lunches per week. (Perfect for picnic days;)

Organize a garage sale and manage it — and decide where the proceeds go (shopping spree, trip jar, charity, etc.;)

Plan for spending. How much will they have for purchases and special activities? Should they save for an upcoming trip?

Set a summer reading goal and keep track of progress. They can suggest an end-of-summer reward for reaching the goal;

Remind you every day — to PLAY!

Copyright 2006 Kelly Curtis. This article is available free for reprint. Just include the copyright line as well as the website address, and send us a copy of the reprinted article. To sign up for periodic Empowering Youth newsletters, please click here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


My seven-year-old son constantly bugs me to let him ride the lawn mower, so this past weekend I asked if he’d like to help. I’m a safety nut, so I gave him the regular lecture, then we both donned protective ear muffs and he wriggled onto my lap behind the steering wheel. I pulled on the speed lever until we were set at the frantic pace of one mile-per-hour, then turned over the navigation to a broad-grinned boy.

During the half-hour or so that we puttered around the yard, he dodged trees and criss-crossed in a random fashion that was sure to miss patches of grass. But I just let him go and didn’t worry about the quality of the lawn’s manicure. I advised him mostly for safety issues, pointed him away from the ditch and talked him through my use of the brake and gears.

When we’d finished, he said that was the best thing he did all weekend, and has since asked every day if we can mow again. But even in May, our grass doesn’t grow quite that fast.

Something I offered just for fun, turned in to a confidence-builder and series of teachable moments. I now have a regular date with the lawn-boy.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Empower Youth to Extend Your Reach

A few years ago as a high school guidance counselor I advised a SPARK Peer Tutoring club. In addition to the service these students provided as tutors, this motivated group also took on other leadership projects.

During one of our monthly meetings to discuss these projects, one student suggested that we try to get a SPARK program going at the middle school. Our high school SPARK students were already tutoring middle school youth and it seemed like there was sufficient need to warrant a separate middle school program.

Although this seemed like a great idea, there were many reasons I did not want to become involved with it. There was not a lot of communication between the staff at the middle school and high school, so I did not have a reliable contact there. And I had no way of personally advising a program at the middle school (logistically or time-wise). I felt that our high school group was already going out of its way to help as tutors at the middle school and I really did not feel like taking on any more than I already had.

But this student was not expecting me to deal with any of those issues. He was posing a suggested project to the group and several members seemed quite interested. And this was a group of students that had demonstrated its ability to reach goals in other projects. So rather than communicate all the roadblocks my mind had created within minutes of the initial suggestion, I just removed myself from the responsibility of project implementation. Instead, I served as advisor for the youth committee, acting as a sounding board and counsel for the group, and empowered them to find the answers to the questions they had. That is really the only thing they needed or wanted from me anyway.

Within months, this small committee of focused SPARK members identified and connected with interested middle school staff, wrote and received a grant to fund the project, facilitated a training for eighth grade tutors and handed over a well-organized peer tutoring program to the new middle school advisor.

And I never lifted a finger.

How often we assume that the ideas generated by youth are just going to add to our plate. As a busy educator, I wonder how many times I shot down a youth suggestion because I just couldn't handle the extra responsibility? And this is a legitimate concern, if we assume that young person expects us to take on the project ourselves. But in this situation, he didn't, and I didn't. There was never any question who was responsible or who received the kudos. From start to finish, the project was owned by a few ambitious young people. Instead of shutting down a complicated endeavor, I chose to limit my involvement and allow youth to take responsibility. My role was to offer empowering support, and in the long run that support helped to make their idea a reality.

Trust empowered youth to extend your reach when they offer.

By the way, the young man that initiated and implemented this middle school SPARK Peer Tutoring program went on to start a lucrative summer house painting business and is putting himself through college. Who knows what we might see from him in the future?

Copyright 2004 Kelly Curtis, This article is available free for reprint. Just include the copyright line as well as the website address, publishing, please send a copy of the reprinted article to Empowering Youth, PO Box 117, Clear Lake, WI 54005 To sign up for periodic Empowering Youth newsletters, please click here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thursday Thirteens

Thursday Thirteen archived posts:

Family Support
Grandma's Visits
Berry Picking

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Empower Youth to Serve Others

"Any definition of a successful life in America must include service to others." - President George W. Bush, Presidential Inaugural Address, January 20, 2001.

The importance of youth service is oftentimes underestimated. In fact, only 20% of young people perceive that adults in the community value youth (Search Institute, 1997, The hours spent by young people volunteering in their communities is valuable because of those benefiting from the service, but perhaps more significantly because of the impact it has on the volunteering youth themselves. The intent of this article is to reinforce the tremendous impact youth can potentially have on our society and how their involvement in the community can improve their own lives as well. The following is data obtained from a variety of research and service organizations indicating the importance of youth volunteerism. Website addresses are indicated where available to assist in grant writing and other research needs.

According to a 1996 Independent Sector/Gallup poll, teenagers volunteer 2.4 billion hours annually. And out of 13.3 million youth, 59.3% volunteer an average of 3.5 hours per week.

The kinds of community service that interest students the most fall into four categories (Prudential, 1995, Charitable activities (88%) - non-profit or church organizations involved with the needy, youth, and senior citizens; Educational activities (83%) - tutoring, peer counseling, coaching sports and student government; Environmental activities (82%) - cleaning up or improving parks and recreation facilities; Cultural activities (66%) - theater, music and arts groups.

The "Do Something Young People's Involvement Survey" ( indicated that 73% of America's young people believe they can make a difference in their communities. Teens choose to volunteer because they feel compassion for people in need, they can do something for a cause in which they believe, and they believe if they can help others, others will help them (Independent Sector/Gallup, 1996.) And volunteering, the environment and eating healthy are the top three activities youth consider "cool" (Teenage Marketing and Lifestyle Study, 1998.)

Most importantly, there is a range of evidence demonstrating the positive impact of youth service. Youth who volunteer just one hour per week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or engage in destructive behavior (Search Institute, 1995). Youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate, vote and be philanthropic (UCLA/Higher Education Research Institute, 1991). In a 1996 Independent Sector/Gallup Poll, the top 10 benefits reported by youth were as follows:

They learned to respect others
They learned to be helpful and kind
They learned how to get along with and relate to others
They gained satisfaction from helping others
They learned to understand people who were different from themselves
They learned how to relate to younger children
They became better people
They learned new skills
They developed leadership skills
They became more patient with others

With so much need in our communities, it is only logical to use one of our most valuable assets to meet that need - young people. But all too often, these bright, energetic people who will inherit our society are never asked to serve. Teenagers need guidance to grow into the leaders they are destined to become and they are eager for the opportunity to volunteer. For us to truly envision youth as the resources they are, we must begin to utilize their capabilities, ask their opinions, recognize their input and follow their lead.

Copyright 2002 Kelly Curtis, This article is available free for reprint. Just include the copyright line as well as the website address,

After publishing, please send a copy of the reprinted article to Empowering Youth, PO Box 117, Clear Lake, WI 54005 To sign up for periodic Empowering Youth newsletters, please click here.