Schools Invited to Participate In Step Up Youth Challenge

Middle and high schools from throughout Tulare County have a chance to participate in a program that seeks to decrease gang activity and support positive options for youth.

There are a total of 20 spots available for middle schools and 10 spots available for high schools to participate in the Step Up Youth Challenge, a seven-month program designed to engage a diverse group of students in a service learning-based Challenge Project that impacts their school culture and community.  Participating schools will have the opportunity to show how their projects made a positive difference at school or in the community in a competition for grants totaling $15,000.

“The value of the Challenge is that students take the lead in creating a program unique to the needs of their school,” said Jim Vidak, Superintendent of Schools. “The range of projects we saw last year was impressive – from gang prevention and anti-bullying campaigns to community service and nutrition/fitness programs. It’s a powerful program for building leadership skills and transforming young lives.”

The 30 spots available for the schools are on a first-come, first-served basis. So far, six middle or junior high schools have enrolled in the program. Those schools registered at the conclusion of last year’s challenge.

For example, Mulcahy Middle School Assistant Principal Mark Thompson said his school enrolled in the Step Up Youth Challenge for a second year because the program inspired the campus.

“The results of the Step Up program on our campus: not a single gang fight all year,” Thompson said. “The program really made a difference and the Step Up Challenge did what it was supposed to do and achieved its mission. It created a whole new campus.”

Step Up Youth Challenge Chairman and District Three Supervisor Phil Cox said this year the Youth Challenge will invite high schools to participate. The Tulare County Youth Commission will administer the Youth Challenge for high schools.

“We are pleased to add high schools to the list of Youth Challenge participants,” Supervisor Cox said. “The ultimate goal is to make sure participants walk away from the program inspired to make a difference back on their campuses and in their communities.”

Interested middle schools should contact Board Representative Allison Pierce at 559/636-5000 or by email at Interested high schools should contact Board Representative Tammie Weyker at 559/636-5000 or by email at For more information on the Step Up Youth Challenge, please visit

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.

Youth Challenge Timeline

September 12, 2012: Each registered school will send a representative to advisor training.
October 11, 2012: Each registered school will participate in the Step Up Challenge Youth Summit.
October 12, 2012: Youth Challenge projects begin.
April 12, 2013: Youth Challenge projects complete.
April 25, 2013: Youth Challenge Red Carpet Event at the Visalia Fox.