Dozens of teens out to make their community a little better pitched their ideas to a panel of judges Wednesday night, with PASTA winning the top prize at Loudoun Youth Inc.’s sixth annual Step Up competition.
Peers and Students Taking Action included members from Stone Bridge, Rock Ridge and Broad Run high schools and Stone Hill Middle School. The organization, which took home a $1,000 prize, began three years ago at Stone Bridge. The founders wanted to provide students with more meaningful volunteer opportunities—encouraging them to be motivated not just to enhance their applications for college but to make a difference. The group has expanded to other schools and has mentored younger students to fill leadership roles when current leaders graduate.
In their presentation to judges, PASTA members highlighted 47 volunteer projects the organization had spearheaded. They range from collecting cereal for the Loudoun Interfaith Relief food pantry to cooking meals at the Ronald McDonald House and from raising awareness about epilepsy to offering guitar lessons and donating board games to children at the INMED Family Services Center.
Loudoun County Superintendent of Schools Eric Williams was one of the judges. He commended the students for their efforts to solve community problems and said he wanted to make it a greater part of the school system’s curriculum.
[Click here to see more photos of the event: Step Up Photo Gallery]
PASTA was among 10 finalists selected from 59 teams that entered the 2016 competition.
The second place award and $750 prize was awarded to Breaking Your Silence (Briar Woods High School), which empowers and provides a voice to survivors of sexual assault.
Third place and $500 went to We’re All Human (Woodgrove High School), which works to prevent suicide and address mental illness in Loudoun County by providing multiple avenues for at-risk individuals to seek help.
Other finalists were:
- Clean Kits Collecting (John Champe High School), which provides hygiene and sanitary products for homeless women in Loudoun County;
- Electronic Binder (J. Michael Lunsford Middle School), which aims to create an electronic binder that would eliminate much of the weight students carry in their backpacks;
- Geared Up! (Ashburn Robotics), which designed a $10 Craft-A-Bot robotics kit to give more students around the world access to robotics;
- Look Up! (Blue Ridge Middle School), which encourages people to step away from their electronic devices and have a more proactive role in their community;
- Saving Loudoun’s Littles – One Car Seat at a Time (Smart’s Mill Middle School), which aims to bring car seat safety inspections back to Loudoun County through increasing the number of safety inspectors, scheduling more frequent events and education;
- Stem 3G (John Champe High School), which raises awareness of the gender gap in STEM-related occupations; and
- Sticks and Stones (Briar Woods High School), which focuses on bullying intervention.
The awards were sponsored by Loudoun Youth Inc. and Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services and were presented at The Club at One Loudoun.