How Search Institute Helped Youth in San Pedro, CA

Children in the San Pedro area face a unique set of challenges. According to youth service organization Toberman Neighborhood Center, the San Pedro area has about 30 active gangs and high crime. In addition, 94% of the families enrolled in the organization itself, live below the poverty line. 64% of those families make $17,000 or less.

According to the Toberman Center, “23% have immediate family members who are gang affiliated and 31% are performing poorly in school.”

Toberman Neighborhood Center is a nonprofit organization committed to helping families and youth in the San Pedro, California area. Toberman hosts gang prevention and intervention services with staff who were previously gang-affiliated and are familiar with the community, thus fostering trust between the youth and staff. They emphasize that their programs are an everyday helping hand for those in need, providing youth with safe passage to the center, either by accompanied walking or a carpool service. They help the children with academic success, conflict resolution skills, guidance for possible career paths, and utilize enrichment activities. This routine, after school each day, creates a space of reliability and trust. “They count on us,” says CEO Dr. Linda Matlock.

Toberman has been a long time partner of Search Institute. Search Institute has helped them continue to provide services to their youth through research and programs, such as the Developmental Assets framework and the Keep Connected program.

We know, through research, that youth develop healthy skills and behavior patterns through relationships with others. So Toberman Center decided to use Search Institute’s Developmental Assets Framework to develop these skills. The framework is 40 research-based, positive experiences and qualities that influence young people’s development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults.

Since the late 1990s, Toberman has fully adopted Developmental Assets as an essential component in their programs. Every employee of Toberman has 12 sessions of intensive training focusing primarily on Developmental Assets as well.

For this reason, the Toberman Center was onboard when Search Institute approached them about being a pilot study for Keep Connected, a seven-session interactive workshop series for families looking to strengthen their connection with their children during their transition to adolescence. Keep Connected helps mitigate risk behaviors in these youth and strengthen family ties. Children learn how to navigate through adolescence with the help of their parents.

“The kids like it because they get a voice,” says Matlock.  

Most parents participating in the program at Toberman are less available to their child’s needs because of the work they do to provide for the family. This program sets aside a time dedicated for parents and children to give each other special attention.

“The Search Institute staff were absolutely delightful people….The positivity and kindness they put in their work, comes back tenfold,” Matlock states.

From the widespread use of the Developmental Assets to Dr. Linda Matlock’s enthusiastic comments about Keep Connected, it is clear that Search Institute’s research is impactful in the community of San Pedro. Without it, Toberman would not be able to provide these youths the services they need. Without Toberman, Search Institute would not be able to utilize their research to help the youth of San Pedro, CA.