After the final round of judging in the 2021 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition on Thursday night, a student from Eagle Ridge Middle walked away with the top prize.
Gift of Giving was designed to ensure students from low-income families in the county had the tools they needed to participate in distance learning during the pandemic and extra food to make up for the meals they normally would get at school. Romav Gopal was inspired to take action by a neighborhood friend whose family needed help with the added expenses. “I was so surprised, because Loudoun County is such as rich county,” he said. The sixth grader raised money to support the Backpack Buddies program, which provides weekend meals for students, and assembled distance learning supply kits that were distributed to students at Sterling Elementary School and Eagle Ridge Middle School.
In winning the top prize, he was awarded a $1,000 check.
More than 50 teams—with 132 teens behind them—participated in this year’s event, which invites students to identify community problems and design programs to address the concerns. The entries were whittled down to 10 finalists following virtual presentations to panels of judges March 8-12. On March 25, another panel of community leaders watched video presentations and asked questions of the finalists to determine the winners.
Second place and $750 went toBrayden’s Buds, founded by Luke Jenkins of Woodgrove High School to supporting pediatric hospital patients and their siblings. Inspired by his own family’s experiences with long hospital stays, he raised more than $15,000 for gift cards and activity kits that helped some 350 families.
Third place and $500 went to Kounslr. Ari Dixit from Independence High School launched an app that addresses the shortage of school counselors and the lack of resources available to high school students by helping students with various aspects of the high school experience, including course selection.
In its 11th year, theLoudoun Youth Inc. program is a partnership with the Youth Advisory Council, Loudoun County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Library.
Executive Director Steve Wolfson said this year’s projects resulted in $170,000 worth of community impact.