Step Up Youth Challenge kicks off this week

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 350 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 Wednesday 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 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 Chairman of the Board of Supervisors 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 on Wednesday will attend 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. 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."

After the summit, participants will have until April 2015 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 then be recognized at a red carpet event in May 2015 at the L.J. Williams Community Theater in Visalia.

Participants:

Middle Schools: 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.

High Schools: 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, please contact Step Up Staff, Allison Pierce at (559) 636-5000 or visit www.stepuptc.com.