The seed for Children First was planted more than 25 years ago in March 1992, when Carl Holmstrom, superintendent of St. Louis Park Schools, made a presentation about the plight of young people to the St. Louis Park Rotary Club. Carl’s speech was so inspiring that two entrepreneur Rotarians pushed the community to dream of a way to make life better for its young people.
The question became: How does a city rally its citizens, schools, families and neighborhoods to help all children and teenagers thrive? Armed with this question, Dr. Holmstrom and the two benefactors invited Search Institute to help St. Louis Park create a citywide effort. A yearlong process of community forums, focus groups, surveys and interviews led to the creation of Children First, the nation’s first community initiative organized to rally all its residents and institutions to nurture the healthy development of children and teenagers based on Search Institute’s pioneering research on Developmental Assets. Developmental Assets are building blocks of successful development important for all youth, which research consistently shows are strongly related to positive outcomes for young people across race, socio-economic status, gender, age, family composition and type of community.
Children First was founded by a partnership among the business, city, health, faith and educational communities in St. Louis Park, MN. Linked by the shared vision of raising asset-rich youth, this collaborative continues to mobilize a significant number of citizens and organizations to promote developmental assets.
The Children First model and scientific studies of its impact have been published in a number of important national and international academic journals and books, including:
After Children First was launched in 1993, more than 600 communities across the United States, Canada, and around the world, launched similar initiatives. As the first model in this Healthy Communities – Healthy Youth movement, Children First has played an important role as a teaching community. Countless city leaders – from New York to California to various cities in Australia, South Africa and Brazil – have utilized community-building innovations first created in St. Louis Park.