Rewarding Search

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When the Minneapolis-based Search Institute gathered for its annual Healthy Communities * Healthy Youth Conference in early November, it had plenty to cheer about. Its president, Peter Benson, and his staff of 51 celebrated a new three-year, $6.6 million grant from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation (assets: $1.35 billion). The grant will help Search focus on training youth workers in Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma, where most Reynolds Foundation grants are made.

Some 2,412 teens and youth workers attended the Minneapolis gathering, giving the event "a feeling of massiveness," says Search spokeswoman Karolyn Josephson. Also massive was one of the heftiest registration fees in the youth service field: $575 for adults and $295 for the estimated 600 participants under age 23. Total conference fees collected: over $1.2 million towards Search's annual $10 million budget.

The Search Institute has also scored repeatedly with corporate donors. In July, youth programs in Multnomah County (Portland) Ore., Georgetown, Tex., and Warren, Pa., won $50,000 grants from Minneapolis-based Jostens Our Town Foundation. Eighty of Search's over 500 Healthy Communities * Healthy Youth program sites applied for the awards, part of which will be used to purchase technical assistance from the Search Institute. Jostens also underwrote an "Our Town" award to beverage equipment manufacturers Bunn-O-Matic for establishing a teen center in Creston, Iowa (pop. 7,911), where the youth-friendly company has a plant.

Promoted to the new slot of executive vice president is Andy Schneider-Mu-oz, who joined Search last March as director of community and social change. Prior to joining Search, Schneider-Mu-oz was a research associate for the Harvard Risk and Prevention Program in Cambridge, Mass. He has long been active in a group now known as the National Association of Child and Youth Care Practice, which seeks to raise standards and salaries of "child and youth care workers." Schneider-Mu-oz taught youth workers at the Child & Youth Care Learning Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1994 to 1997. Says an always enthusiastic Schneider-Munoz of his new assignment, "It's a great opportunity for a youth worker".

Founded in 1958, the Search Institute publishes Assets magazine, one of the field's best and most concise periodicals on the youth development approach to family and community building. The quarterly has a circulation of up to 30,000, with an impressive 5,200 paid subscribers ($29.95 per year).

Search President Benson was recently appointed to the largely figurehead (so far) board of directors of America's Promise-the Alliance for Youth, chaired by retired Gen. Colin Powell, the presumptive secretary of state in a Bush administration. How ironic that the fast-talking "private sector" sharpies at America's Promise couldn't raise enough corporate and foundation funds to finance their 50-member staff, while the laconic Benson & Co. are doing just that without a cent in direct federal funds. Only a $7.5 million federal bailout in the form of an earmark in the FY 2001 budget of the Corporation for National Service has staved off major America's Promise staff cuts. Perhaps Benson, encyclopedic on youth-and-service matters, can lead America's Promise in its search for a real and really fundable-on-the-merits mission. Contact: (800) 888-7828, or