Since 2021, Over 1,200 Students in 32 States Created Projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their communities
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, January 24, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), hosted 27 students selected as finalists from three out of 18 universities and three out of 24 high schools who are developing innovative projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their communities. The students are finalists in Invent2Prevent (I2P), a contest launched in Spring 2021 that has seen more than 1,200 students participate from 119 universities across 32 states and Washington, D.C., and 138 high schools across 25 states.
Iowa State University, Ames, IA and North Panola Career and Technical Center, Como, MS were named the winners of the university and high school categories, respectively. These teams will use the resources to further advance and scale their initiatives and projects. Thirteen I2P teams have successfully continued their projects through the McCain Institute Sustainment Program, and four of those teams have secured additional funding through DHS CP3’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program.
“Prevention is a community effort, and programs like I2P give young minds the opportunity to work together to take on the toughest challenges facing the world today,” said CP3 Director William Braniff. “The next generation of changemakers understand that acts of targeted violence and terrorism are often preventable, and they are helping their peers and their schools do just that. I am inspired by their work and their commitment to building safe and resilient communities.”
“The freedom that I2P gave us to choose a topic such as school shootings allowed us to make a TRUE impact towards preventing them and making real progress for mental health accountability,” said Kathleen Hepworth, Student at Iowa State University. “I’m grateful for their support all semester and their feedback and guidance was crucial to our project success.”
“Invent2Prevent has been very helpful and encouraging during our semester of work. They gave us a free space to express an important cause in our community,” said Keniya Davis, Student at North Panola Career and Technical Center. “Peer No Pressure had a very positive impact on our community and grabbed a lot of people’s attention. With us being able to amplify our message even more with the help of I2P, we are definitely making a change in the community.”
As part of a semester-long project, each team evaluated a current threat facing the nation, such as campus safety, cyberbullying, and violent extremism. The teams then created a program or tool to educate or build on the strengths of their community to decrease the likelihood of targeted violence and terrorism. During the final round of competition in Washington, D.C., students presented their projects for the opportunity to be awarded funding to carry-out their proposed initiatives. The students presented their projects to a panel of judges consisting of government officials and civil society leaders with expertise in the fields of protection and prevention, education, youth engagement, and mental health, along with past I2P student participants.
CP3 strengthens our country’s ability to prevent targeted violence and terrorism nationwide through funding, training, increased public awareness, and partnerships across every level of government, the private sector, and in local communities. CP3 seeks to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow play an active role in designing innovative solutions to build more resilient communities today through programs, such as Invent2Prevent.
Through the TVTP Grant Program, CP3 provides funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education to establish or enhance their capabilities to prevent targeted violence and terrorism. In 2022, DHS awarded $20 million in TVTP Grants, of which more than $1 million has been awarded to amplify the impact of previous Invent2Prevent projects. For more information on the TVTP Grants Program, please visit www.dhs.gov/tvtpgrants.
“Invent2Prevent is a fantastic program that harnesses the creativity and enthusiasm of youth to support CP3’s public health approach to prevention,” said Brette Steele, Senior Director for Preventing Targeted Violence at the McCain Institute. “Our I2P students are at the forefront of innovation in the prevention field. Each semester, we look to them to help us develop solutions that resonate and build resilience in their respective communities. This semester we saw more creative ideas than ever before, and the competition to make it to D.C. was fierce. Congratulations to the finalist teams and to all the I2P teams on their hard work this semester.”
“These competitions are what we live for. There is nothing more exciting than to witness what these Invent2Prevent finalists have created,” said Tony Sgro, Founder and CEO of EdVenture Partners. “Each semester I am continually amazed by the level of student innovation. These students are addressing difficult issues that they are personally facing in their schools, on their campuses, and in their communities and they are providing credible, authentic solutions; it is pretty incredible. I have absolute belief that these young learners are tomorrow’s leaders.”
The three university finalists finished in the following order:
Iowa State University, Ames, IA
The Iowa State University team created MIND SPACE, an initiative that creates a connected, supportive community by providing educational resources that help others understand mental health and behaviors that destigmatize help-seeking behaviors, while offering a physical location where students can access mental health resources in privacy on campus. MIND SPACE was created to reduce the mental health stigma in academic settings and help prevent individuals from engaging in violence, and specifically school shootings. By fostering protective factors and a connected community, the initiative ensures bystanders feel confident in aiding those with mental health issues, while helping reduce social isolation for people experiencing mental health concerns.
Middlebury Institute for International Studies, Monterey, CA
The Middlebury Institute for International Studies team created Project Gravity, a SoftLanding GPT artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot that acts as a resource toolkit to help individuals whose loved ones could be on a path toward violent extremism. The Project Gravity chatbot is intended to provide resources and responses that give people the confidence they need to have difficult conversations. Project Gravity embraces a public health model of targeted violence prevention by reducing the attractiveness of violent narratives through resiliency building on individual, family, and community levels.
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
The University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) team created SafeSpace Nebraska, an initiative that focuses on enhancing the preparedness of college students for school shooting events. While school safety protocols have been actively promoted in high schools, this initiative is intended to address a lack of preparedness training on campuses. The project increases awareness of the “Run. Hide. Fight!” protocol in the UNL community. Through a variety of interactive tactics, including scenario-based training, SafeSpace Nebraska engages UNL students and staff to enhance their knowledge of what to do in the event of an active shooter situation on campus. Additionally, SafeSpace Nebraska advocates for university safety protocols to be added to all UNL class syllabi through the creation of a Change.org petition.
The three high school finalists finished in the following order:
North Panola Career and Technical Center, Como, MS
The North Panola Career and Technical Center team created Peer No Pressure, an initiative dedicated to providing students, ages 12-18, with a safe and supportive space to minimize bullying and peer pressure, through the use of peer-led discussions, engaging skits, and a mentorship program. Peer No Pressure seeks to rewrite the narrative on peer pressure and bullying, while cultivating an environment where peers’ voices matter and produce change. Peer No Pressure believes that by embracing empathy and fostering a culture of prevention, the resulting shared commitment to creating safe spaces and positive relationships can form a united front against bullying and peer pressure.
Burlington Township High School, Burlington NJ
The Burlington Township High School team created CTRL + ALT + DELETE Cyberbullying, where “Being a Bystander is Saying Bye to Your Standards,” an initiative to educate 5th grade students on how to identify, report, and stop cyberbullying. It was created with four goals in mind: 1) educate students about cyberbullying; 2) create a support group among students; 3) provide parents with knowledge and information; and 4) educate students on reporting acts of cyberbullying. The team partnered with the Burlington Township District guidance counselor and the Fountain Woods Elementary School head guidance counselor to bring this project to life. The team worked to create an in-person outreach that was both easy for teachers to implement and effective among their target audience.
Louisiana Youth Advisory Council, Baton Rouge, LA
The Louisiana Youth Advisory Council team wrote “Thao, Pradeep, and Carolina,” a children’s book meant to expose kindergarten students to new cultures. Each character in the book introduces their unique cultural holiday by talking about their favorite traditions and how they celebrate. By exposing and educating children about different cultures early in their schooling, the project seeks to prevent racism and othering in the future. By promoting inclusivity, this book is intended to encourage students to be open-minded to unfamiliar ideas and instill positive associations with those of different backgrounds beginning at a young age. This project was created with four goals in mind: 1) curtail discrimination against different cultures and races through exposure; 2) provide an opportunity for education and discussion; 3) introduce differences in culture at an early age to encourage children to welcome differences of others; and 4) create a more inclusive and embracing environment where children are more empathetic to their peers.
Statements attributed to non-governmental organizations are for informational purposes only. References do not constitute an official endorsement of the organization, its work, or its product or services by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the Federal Government.