St. Louis Park’s journey

The Beginning

      • School Superintendent Carl Holmstrom’s speech to St. Louis Park Rotary Club inspires Rotarians to push for an initiative to benefit kids and families.
      • Formation of At-Risk Families Committee (school staff).
      • Back-to-school workshop held for all school staff on Children First and asset survey results (September 2,1993).
      • Members of a community wide Steering Committee identified.
      • First monthly Children First newsletter (October, 1993) and publicity in local newspaper.
      • First Steering Committee meeting (October 29, 1993). Discussed plans for town meetings.
      • City Council resolution supporting Children First (November 15, 1993).
      • School Board resolution supporting Children First (November 29, 1993).
      • Town meetings (November 30 and December 2, 1993) with approximately 150 residents. Discussed strengths and concerns about St. Louis Park and vision for community.
      • Search Institute staff conducted focus group interviews with 35 community groups of all types. Focus group components: obstacles, improvement, and vision.
      • Steering Committee meeting (December 16). Worked on plans for neighborhood conversations.

The Early Years

      • Volunteers conducted one dozen home meetings (neighborhood conversations) -“mini-town meetings.” Hosts had volunteered at town meetings.
      • School faculty workshop on “Building Assets Through Teamwork.” (January 17, 1994).
      • Focus group interviews and surveying continued. (Completed February, 1994.)
      • Senior High School student newspaper, The ECHO, lead article on Children First. (February, 1994)
      • Local clergy developed a draft document on “Core Values for the Children of St. Louis Park” (February, 1994).
      • Steering Committee meeting (February 17, 1994). Discussed design plan for Children First.
      • Identification of a Design Team composed of school and Search Institute personnel to assist in analyzing data and drafting a proposal (March, 1994). Design Team meetings were held on March 9, 15, and 23, 1994.
      • Steering Committee meeting (March 17, 1994). Discussion of tentative Design Document for Children First and future role of Steering Committee. Completion of first draft. (April 1,1994).
      • Special Steering Committee meeting (April 7, 1994). Agenda items included: Review final draft of proposal, evaluation of the process and future steps. Completion of final draft of proposal (April 11-12, 1994).
      • Grant proposals submitted to corporate foundations.
      • Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social and Community Celebration of Children First (May, 1994)
      • Money secured to hire a coordinator (Fall, 1994).
      • Children First Transition Team (including representatives from each founding partner) writes a job description, interview and select a coordinator for Children First.
      • Coordinator starts (October 1, 1994).
      • Transition Team becomes permanent Executive Committee responsible for organizational and fiduciary integrity of Children First.
      • Executive Committee members draft individuals from a variety of backgrounds to serve on Children First Vision Team with responsibility for envisioning what Children First should be in St. Louis Park.
      • Vision Team has initial meeting in December 1994, including representatives from the city, education, health, business, clergy, Rotary, social service agencies and parents and students (grades 5 – 11).
      • A Marketing Committee for Children First begins work in April 1995. Charged with determining how to make every citizen in St. Louis Park aware of Children First, the committee is composed of marketing professionals, school and city personnel, clergy, business people and students.
      • Second annual Ice Cream Social, a community-wide event is held for family fun and to celebrate St. Louis Park’s efforts to put Children First. An estimated 1,500 people consumed 2,900 free ice cream cones.
      • To respond to inquiries from other communities about Children First, a Children First Workshop is piloted June 15, 1995.

Late 1990s

      • Congregations organize a workshop dealing with how to keep kids safe in congregations.
      • Central Clinic opens, a clinic offering free health services for all St. Louis Park youth, via a partnership between Park Nicollet and the school district.
      • Awareness efforts include meetings with St. Louis Park’s private schools and including Children First information in the orientation for new staff at St. Louis Park District 283.
      • Building local and national media coverage includes U.S. News & World Report’s cover story on resiliency includes Children First, November 11, 1996.
      • University students begin working with Lenox Neighborhood on an Awareness to Action campaign.
      • National radio show, the Osgood File highlights Children First, Feb. 97.
      • During St. Louis Park’s new Recreation Center’s grand opening, the facility is dedicated to the principles of Children First.
      • Search Institute’s Attitudes and Behaviors Survey conducted with 6th-12th graders on 40 Developmental Assets. Longitudinal study launched.
      • Conduct panel presentation at Search Institute’s first national conference.
      • A Neighborhood Discussion Guide helps residents support kids in their area.
      • Youth leadership opportunities are available on local advisory councils.
      • The Children First Story is published to record St. Louis Park’s community initiative.
      • Children First initial web site is launched.
      • St. Louis Park Schools’ new strategic plan exhibits a strong Children First philosophy.
      • Teen creates a “Got Assets?” poster is developed to promote asset building among teenagers.
      • High School parents launch Day One, an annual celebration on the first day of school.

2000 & Beyond

      • Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR) 9th grade transition program is created to build assets, relationships and school success.
      • Establish teen co-chair for the initiative.
      • Survey shows that 42% of St. Louis Park residents know about Children First.
      • High school students develop and distribute An Adult’s Guide to Kids.
      • Enrichment class scholarships, Carl’s Gifts, are established in memory of Carl Holmstrom.
      • Mayor’s Youth Summit solicits teens on how to make the city more kid-friendly.
      • Children First is the subject of a case study on asset building, conducted by Search Institute.
      • Ten-Year Celebration held highlighting accomplishments.
      • Results of longitudinal study released.
      • Skate park opens, an idea that came from teens during the Mayor’s Youth Summit.
      • Street banners in business district are created by local citizen “artists,” young and old, through unique public art project.
      • Pilot Developmental Asset Profile instrument for Search Institute.
      • Awareness meeting held for businesses as part of chamber’s local business council meeting.
      • Children First featured during Search Conference with mini-assembly. Fifteen members of Children First Vision Team participate in conference.
      • Youth of all ages invent ways to support survivors of Hurricane Katrina & the Tsunami.
      • St. Louis Park named by America’s Promise to the inaugural list of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. (Receive the honor in the five subsequent years it is awarded.)
      • Children First develops an expansion project by creating the Asset Champion’s Network. The community-wide network engages people from organizations throughout the city to intentionally promote asset building.
      • A meeting with 35 community leaders is held to get their insights and garner their support for the Asset Champion’s Network concept.
      • Work is done to secure funding for Children First by encouraging organizations and individuals to make three-year financial commitments. Several local organizations and individuals make commitments.
      • January 29, the Asset Champion’s Network is launched with 110 people, ages 10-80 years, participating.
      • In the spring, 82 Asset Champions are trained to spread the word among their organizations and constituencies.
      • The Otto Bremer Foundation commits to a three-year grant for Children First in support of the Asset Champion’s Network.
      • Updated Children First website is launched.


      • Champions Breakfast launched as a way to celebrate Children First accomplishments and raise friends and funds for the initiative.
      • New organizational video created.


      • Asset Champion Training is updated.


      • Attitudes and Behaviors survey conducted with 6th-12th graders providing updated data related to the 40 Developmental Assets.


      • Super Champions Pilot tested with volunteer leaders (Super Champions) leading a team of Asset Champions through a six-session discussion curriculum focusing on deepening their asset-building efforts.


      • Updated Children First website.
      • Thomas L. Friedman mentions Children First in his book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Accelerations.
      • Strategic plan work begins to coincide with 25th anniversary of Children First (March 2017).


    • Task forces established to working toward making strategic goals a reality.
    • Asset Champions Task Force contacts all current volunteers about a reboot to their role.
    • Training Task Force develops action planning module to be added to Asset Champion training.
    • Six Speed provides pro bono work refreshing Children First’s brand.
    • Plans underway for 25th annual Ice Cream Social in 2018.