November 2, 2011

On October 13, 16 teams of middle school students from large and small campuses around the county arrived at the Visalia Convention Center to begin projects that could have long-term positive effects at their schools. The teams were motivated and instructed on how to develop a service-learning project that could change their school culture and community for the better. The program, known as the Step Up Youth Challenge, is sponsored by the Tulare County Gang Prevention Task Force.

Youth Challenge Over the next six months, the teams will develop a theme that is important to their school or community. For example, teams might choose to address gangs, drug abuse, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, or suicide prevention. “One of the most important features of the Step Up Youth Challenge is that the projects developed for each campus will be youth-designed and youth-driven,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We know from experience that youth-driven projects have a greater potential for success. We are anxious to see what develops at each one of the project schools.” In March, the teams will complete their projects and submit a video documenting its success. The top five teams will be awarded grants totaling $15,000. Winners will be announced and all participants will be honored at a red carpet event on April 12, 2012 at the Fox Theater in Visalia.

Submitted by the Tulare County Office of Education.