Finalists will compete in Washington, D.C., on January 24. RSVP to watch HERE.
WASHINGTON, D.C – The McCain Institute, EdVenture Partners, Credence Management Solutions, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (DHS CP3) announce the top three high school and top three collegiate finalists who will compete in Washington, D.C. next week for the Fall 2023 iteration of Invent2Prevent, a national student competition to identify new, whole-of-society approaches to prevent targeted violence, terrorism, and hate crimes.
Out of the 24 university teams competing this semester, Middlebury Institute for International Studies, Iowa State University, and the University of Nebraska Lincoln were named as finalists. Of the 41 participating high school teams, Burlington Township High School (N.J.), Louisiana Youth Advisory Council (La.), and North Panola Career and Technical Center (Miss.) were selected. The six finalist teams will participate in a live competition to be held in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 24.
“Youth involvement is a critical part of the public health approach to prevention.
Invent2Prevent empowers our youth to tackle issues of hate, violence, and extremism in their backyards and lead the way in building more safe and resilient communities,” said Brette Steele, senior director of preventing targeted violence at the McCain Institute. “The level of innovation, ingenuity, and creativity that we see each semester of Invent2Prevent is incredible, and the teams this semester have set the bar extremely high for the final competition.”
“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 they are facing in their schools, campuses and communities and providing credible, authentic solutions; it is incredible. I have absolute belief that these young learners are tomorrow’s leaders.”
About the Collegiate Finalists:
As part of this semester-long project, each university team evaluated a current threat facing the nation and identified an opportunity to create an initiative, product, or tool to better educate a specific target audience on the potential vulnerabilities that could lead individuals to consider targeted violence or terrorist acts. Teams were given a modest budget of $2,000. Each of the three finalists identified a different topic and will provide a 15-minute overview of their specific effort and answer questions posed by judges during the in-person final competition.
Middlebury Institute for International Studies, Monterey, Calif.: Project Gravity
The Middlebury Institute for International Studies team created Project Gravity, a SoftLanding GPT AI–powered chatbot that acts as a resource toolkit to help individuals whose loved ones could be on a path toward self-radicalization. The Project Gravity chatbot provides resources and responses, giving people the confidence that they need to have difficult conversations. Project Gravity embraces a public health model of targeted violence prevention by reducing the attractiveness of conspiracy theories through resiliency building on individual, family, and community levels.
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa: MIND SPACE
The Iowa State University team created MIND SPACE, an initiative that creates a connected, supportive community where bystanders and community members are empowered to seek, direct, and assist those needing mental health attention. MIND SPACE was created to reduce the mental health stigma in academic settings by offering educational resources and providing support for mental health treatment. Through fostering a connected campus community, MIND SPACE ensures bystanders feel confident in aiding those with mental health issues and helps reduce social withdrawal from people struggling with their mental health. This culmination of protective factors ultimately helps prevent at-risk individuals from mobilizing violence, particularly on college campuses.
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.: SafeSpace Nebraska
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, preparedness training is severely lacking on college campuses. The project increases awareness of the “Run. Hide. Fight!” protocol in the UNL community. Through various interactive tactics, including scenario-based training, SafeSpaceNebraska enhances UNL students’ and staff knowledge of what to do in an active shooter situation on campus. Additionally, SafeSpace Nebraska advocates for university safety protocols to be added to all UNL class syllabuses through the creation of a Change.org petition.
About the High School Finalists:
As part of this semester-long project, each high school team evaluated a current threat facing their school or community and created an initiative, product, or tool to better educate a specific target audience on the potential vulnerabilities that could lead individuals to consider targeted violence or acts of hate. Teams were provided with an optional modest budget of $1,000. Each of the three finalists identified a different topic and will provide a 12-minute overview of their specific effort and answer questions posed by judges during the in-person final competition.
Burlington Township High School, Burlington N.J.: CTRL + ALT + DELETE Cyberbullying
The Burlington Township High School team created CTRL + ALT + DELETE Cyberbullying, an initiative to educate 5th grade students how to identify, report, and stop cyberbullying. The project empowers students to take action when they encounter cyberbullying, using the slogan “Being a Bystander is Saying Bye to Your Standards.” CTRL + ALT + DELETE Cyberbullying aims to educate students about cyberbullying, create a support group among students, provide parents with knowledge and information, and teach students how to report 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.
Louisiana Youth Advisory Council, Baton Rouge, La.: Thao, Pradeep, and Carolina
The Louisiana Youth Advisory Council team created 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. Exposing and educating children about different cultures early on prevents racism and othering in the future. By promoting inclusivity, this book encourages students to be open-minded to unfamiliar ideas and instillspositive associations beginning at a young age.
The early exposure that Thao, Pradeep, and Carolina provides to students aims to curtail discrimination against different cultures and races, encourages children to welcome differences of others, and contributes to a more inclusive and embracing environment where children are more empathetic to their peers.
North Panola Career and Technical Center, Como, Miss.: Peer No Pressure
The North Panola Career and Technical Center team created Peer No Pressure, a movement dedicated to flipping the script on bullying and peer pressure through peer-led discussions, engaging skits, and a mentorship program. This initiative has transformed the school environment into a place of expression, support, and community connectedness. Peer No Pressure is re-writing the narrative on peer pressure and bullying while cultivating an environment where peer’s voices matter and produce change. By embracing empathy and fostering a culture of prevention, there is a shared commitment to the contribution of creating safe spaces and positive relationships to form a united front against bullying and peer pressure.
Follow the progress of the Invent2Prevent finalists and learn more about the upcoming final competition on the I2P social media accounts @invent2prevent on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Click here to attend the final competition on January 24 or to view the livestream.
About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
The McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s dedication to public service. We are part of Arizona State University and based in Washington, D.C. Our programs advance democracy and human rights, empower character-driven leaders, combat human trafficking, and prevent targeted violence. Our unique power to convene leaders across the global political spectrum enables us to make a real impact on the world’s most pressing challenges. Our goal is action, not talk, and like Senator McCain, we are fighting to create a free, safe, and just world for all.
About EdVenture Partners
EdVenture Partners (EVP) builds academic partnerships to address social impact, marketing communications, and other business-related challenges for Fortune 500 companies, governments, NGOs, and trade associations. EVP has partnered with nearly 1,000 academic institutions in 76 countries worldwide with more than 250,000 students participating in peer-to-peer experiential learning programs.
About Credence Management Solutions LLC
Credence Management Solutions, one of the largest privately held government contractors, is among the top vendors under the GSA OASIS vehicles, and is also proud to be one of the fastest growing privately held firms in the U.S. over the last decade (according to Inc. 5000).
About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.
McCain Institute Press Office