Step Up Youth Challenge Kicks into Gear

Tulare County’s Step Up Youth Challenge program kicked into full gear with a fall summit at the Visalia Convention Center that brought together more than 350 youth representing 29 middle, junior and high schools from throughout Tulare County.

The Step Up Youth Challenge is a seven-month program designed to engage a diverse group of junior high and high school students in a service learning-based Challenge Project that impacts their school culture and community. Schools completing a project will compete in a challenge to win grants for their school. The program is sponsored by the Tulare County Gang Prevention Task Force, whose goal is to decrease gang activity and support the growth of positive options for youth throughout Tulare County.

The program has been successful since its inception in 2011. As a result of its accomplishments, this is the fourth year in a row the program has taken place.

“We are delighted that students from across Tulare County will be participating in the Youth Challenge this year,” said Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chair Phil Cox. “The Step Up Youth Challenge continues to have a proven track record of success and will have a positive impact on all schools participating.”

Schools participating in the summit attended various workshops to help them create a plan to implement a Challenge Project that addresses a theme that is locally important to their school or community. Schools chose projects that addressed gangs, drug abuse, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem and suicide prevention.

“One of the most important features of 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 as students take ownership in the process. We are anxious to see what develops and track the positive effects at each school.”

Participants will have until April 2015 to implement and complete their project, and will turn in a report on their Challenge Project and enter in a competition to win a grant for their school. All participants will then be recognized at a red carpet event in May at the L.J. Williams Community Theater in Visalia.

Middle schools participating in the challenge are: Burton, Divisadero, El Monte, Green Acres, Jefferson, La Joya, Lincoln Elementary, Mulcahy, Pixley, Pleasant View, Sundale, Sycamore Valley, Valley Life, Valley Oak, Washington, Washington Intermediate, Willow Glen, Woodlake Valley and Wilson Middle.

Participating high schools are: Citrus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Farmersville, Mission Oak, Mt. Whitney, Orosi, Sequoia, Summit Charter Collegiate Academy, Tech Prep and University Preparatory.

For more information on the Step Up Youth Challenge, call Allison Pierce at 636-5000 or visit www.stepuptc.com.

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