Tulare County’s Step Up Youth Challenge program will kick into full gear this week with an event that aims to inspire hundreds of youth.
More than 290 youth representing 29 middle, junior, and high schools from throughout Tulare County will participate in a summit to kick off the Step Up Youth Challenge from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Visalia Convention Center.
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 was created in school year 2011-12 to provide an opportunity for middle and junior high schools to engage a diverse group of students in a project-based learning challenge. Based on its success, the program is being offered for a second year in a row and is being expanded to include high schools.
“Tulare County is pleased that high school students will be participating in the Youth Challenge this year,” said District Three Supervisor Phil Cox, chairman of the Youth Challenge committee. “The Step Up Youth Challenge will have a positive impact for all schools participating.”
Earlimart School District Counselor Ruth Ayala agrees.
“We want the students to be involved and develop leadership skills that they can use in the future,” Ayala said. “We feel the Youth Challenge will help our students make better choices and their leadership skills can be transferred into our community.”
Schools participating in the summit on Thursday will attend various workshops to help them create a plan to implement a Challenge Project to address a theme that is locally important to their school or community. For example, schools might address 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 affects at each school."
Youth Challenge Timeline
After the summit, participants will have until March 2013 to implement and complete their project. Participants will turn in a report on their Challenge Project and enter in a competition to win a grant for their school.
All participants will be recognized at red carpet event in April 2013 at the Fox Theatre in Visalia.
Middle Schools Participating: Bartlett, Burton, Divisidero, Earlimart, El Monte, Green Acres, La Joya, Lincoln, Mulcahy, Pioneer, Pixley, Pleasant View, Summit Charter, Sunnyside, Valley Life, Valley Oak, Washington, Wilson
High Schools Participating: Dinuba, Orosi, Monache, Mission Oak, Tulare Union, Tulare Western, Mt. Whitney, University Prep, Visalia Technical Education Center