Some of the county’s most innovative—and youngest—minds came together Thursday evening to present their ideas to improve their corner of the world.
The event was the annual Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition, which encourages middle and high school students across the county to identify an issue in their school, neighborhood or community, create a plan to address that issue, and implement the plan. This year’s event drew more than 200 teens on 61 teams—more than has ever taken part in the competition’s 12 years.
The students presented their solutions to two dozen judges over a three-hour period. Most of the students have not only identified a problem and a solution to that problem, but have started working to solve it.
Jared Melvin, president and CEO of Loudoun Youth Inc., said that is the key to the program. “We want to see action,” he said to the judges, ahead of sending them out to hear from the students.
Neil McNerney, a licensed professional counselor who served as one of the judges, told the hundreds of students gathered after he heard their presentations that they should be proud of their hard work. “When you hear adults say, ‘oh, kids today are self-centered,’ think about all the work you’ve into these projects with the goal of helping your community.”
The judges whittled down the 61 teams to 10 top teams who will go on to the final competition next Thursday. They will be competing for cash prizes from $250 to $1,000 to fund their plans.
The teams who won a spot in the finals are: Nothing Impastable, Color for Kids, Princess Packages, Bridges, Nest Nurtures, Citizenship Coach, Cobra, Knobesity, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and LoudounX.
Their projects addressed a variety of problems and presented solutions such as raising money for childhood cancer research and creating a website that publishes local events and service opportunities for teens.
Kevin Conley, co-founder and owner of Destiny Financial Team in Leesburg who also served as a judge, told the students that the next generation is in good hands. “Our destiny is great if you guys are representing our future.”
The final competition is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at K2M 600 Hope Parkway SE in Leesburg.
Loudoun Now Managing Editor Danielle Nadler served as a Step Up judge—and thoroughly enjoyed it.