Since the 2012-2013 school year, the Step Up Youth Challenge has been a vehicle for students to create impactful projects at their schools and in their communities. Often working alongside community agencies, dozens of middle and high school teams have participated over the years to develop projects that address a wide range of issues – from hunger, bullying, and depression to literacy, fitness, and community beautification.
Through the yearlong process of developing their projects, students learn how to identify community needs, develop a project plan, and implement it in partnership with others. Along the way, they gain real insight into the process of community change.
During the 2019-2020 Youth Challenge, students at Traver School identified the need for a community library where students could check out books, access the internet, and study. Working with a Traver community service organization known as TCAPS, the students began the process of securing space for the library, acquiring a library collection and equipment, and partnering with other service organizations and agencies for support. For their efforts, the Traver team won the Best Overall Award in the middle school category and a $2,500 grant provided by the County of Tulare.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Youth Challenge was suspended last year. This didn’t stop the Traver students from continuing their work. With great perseverance, the students built out a colorful library space complete with computers and workstations in the TCAPS center, developed their library collection, and held a grand opening this summer.
“The Traver library is just one of dozens of projects completed through the Step Up program that are making real differences in Tulare County communities,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire. “This program has so many great learning elements, such as civic and project-based learning, social/emotional development, and character education. I highly encourage teachers and after school leaders to take advantage of this unique learning opportunity.”
The Step Up Youth Challenge returns this fall for the 2021-2022 school year. The program is open to teams of both middle and high school students. Teams will work throughout the school year to develop and implement their project, turning in a progress report in the spring. A panel of judges will review all completed reports to determine the top projects eligible for grants totaling $13,000.
An in-person kick-off advisor training is planned for September 9 at 4:00 p.m. at TCOE’s Mooney Administration Building in Visalia. In order to participate in the challenge, advisors must attend the training. To register, visit tulare.k12oms.org/1530-204401.
The Youth Challenge is one of several programs in the County of Tulare’s Step Up initiative. The Tulare County Office of Education coordinates the Youth Challenge on behalf of the county in partnership with the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. For more information, contact Kelley Petty at [email protected].