Hospital Outreach Effort Wins Top Step Up Loudoun Youth Prize

A pair of future medical students walked away with the top prize in the Step Up Loudoun Youth competition Thursday night after the final round was judged at the K2M headquarters in Leesburg.

Lina Alkarmi and Shahlaley Nagra are the founders of Princess Packages, a student volunteer group that assembles and distributes bags of items aimed at brightening the days of young girls during hospital stays. The Dominion High School students, who plan to be doctors, said they were inspired to address the feelings of isolation that girls feel in hospitals when they a separated from friends. After employing an engineering design process to tackle the concern, the pair developed a program to provide princess crowns and wands, putty, paper dolls, stickers and make-your-own bracelet kits to patients age 4-10 at area hospitals. Volunteers meet on Saturdays to assemble the care packages and more than 130 have been distributed so far.

The effort landed them a $1,000 grant as the top winners in the competition that challenges students to identify community problems and develop solutions.

Prince Packages was among 10 finalists in this year’s contest, which drew participation from more than 200 teens on 61 teams—the most in competition’s 12 years.

The second place $700 prize was awarded to the Nothing’s ImPastable tutoring and mentoring program that pairs trained high school students with students in grades 3-6 who struggle with low self-esteem. The group already secured funding from One Hundred Women Strong for the pilot program at Potomac Falls High School and now is partnering with the YMCA of Loudoun County.

Third place went to Citizenship Coach, an app that uses the Google Assistant platform to help immigrants study for the U.S. citizenship test and improve their English speaking.

Other top teams developed volunteer teams to cook meals at homeless shelters; created a program and app to get English language learners more involved with student activities at Park View High School; designed a website platform to link students with internship, volunteer and job opportunities; developed a program to raise awareness of and combat obesity; organized a campaign to recycle art supplies; created an app to better inform the public about carcinogenic ingredients in common foods; and a campaign to help raise money to support childhood cancer patients.

The volunteers behind Loudoun Youth have more work to do this week. Tonight, the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg hosts the Battle of the Bands finals. The event features live performances from teen bands that are competing for a $500 top prize, other stage acts and interactive exhibits focusing on healthy living, after school programs, community organizations, belonging and diversity. Tickets are $8 at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m.

The top 10 finalists in the 2018 Step Up Loudoun Youth competition pose for a group photo before the contest results were announced April 12.

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