By Michelle Jones, Program Director
How to Empower Your Teen to STEP UP!
Why Teach Your Teen to Serve?
Teaching our kids to serve others in the community instills in them a sense of confidence and a strong sense of self. Positively improving others’ lives gives them purpose and helps them realize the big impact they can have in the world. And, it doesn’t look bad on their college resume, either!
Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition
Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition (SULYC) is a program of Loudoun Youth, Inc. in partnership with Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services. It empowers middle and high school students in Loudoun County to identify an issue in their school, neighborhood or community, create a plan to address that issue and implement the plan. Students work individually or in teams to make a difference. They can team up with friends from other schools (public, private or home), sports teams or religious organizations.
The competition itself looks sort of like a science fair. Teams create three-sided display boards explaining their issue, solution and the community impact their project has had. Community business and civic leaders serve as judges, listening to the teams present their projects. Creating a connection between the youth and these community leaders is an important part of the program.
SULYC encourages, supports and rewards those students who rise to the challenge, with the top ten teams winning monetary prizes between $100-$1000. The competition is supported by Loudoun County Public Schools and is sponsored by the YouthQuest Foundation.
The History of Step Up
The first Step Up was held in 2005 as a way to bring youth and adults together in a dialogue that was believed to help identify the needs of the youth. We wanted to LISTEN to the youth and give them a VOICE. In 2010, Step Up was transformed into a program that empowers the youth themselves to take positive and impactful actions to make their communities a better place to live, to get an education and to play. Youth identify the issues that matter to them and they TAKE ACTION to create solutions!
Listening to youth is imperative to our program’s success. We use the topics identified to get a “pulse” on the youth…what do they think is important? What innovative solutions will they find? Last year’s most identified issues were mental health, suicide prevention, the environment and education.
The 2016 SULYC winner, PASTA (Peers and Students Taking Action), is a student-run volunteer group committed to helping kids in our community. Since winning, they used the prize money to become a 501(c)3, have grown to over 12 individual chapters and have completed more than 92 service projects in Loudoun County! This year’s winner, Call of Security, built an inexpensive device to combat cyber threats for individuals and businesses who couldn’t afford an expensive protection service.
How does a Student Step Up?
- Identify a topic important to them
- Research the topic to become educated about it
- Develop and implement an action plan or solution
- Register from October 2 to December 15, 2017
- Attend an Orientation Session in January
- Prepare and practice a 5-minute presentation
- Present their work in the Main Competition on April 5, 2018 at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court, Ashburn, VA 20148
- The top ten teams move into the Finals to determine their cash prizes on April 12, 2018