Students from universities and high schools across the country submitted projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in communities
WASHINGTON – On June 21 and June 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships(CP3), in collaboration with EdVenture Partners and the McCain Institute for International Leadership, hosted the finalists for Invent2Prevent, a program that empowers university and high school students to develop innovative projects that help prevent targeted violence and terrorism. American University and Marysville High School won the competitions for the university and high school categories, respectively. Since Invent2Prevent was launched in Spring 2021, more than 700 students in 77 collegiate programs across 28 states and Washington D.C. and 27 high school pilot programs across 16 states have participated in Invent2Prevent.
The United States remains in a heightened threat environment, and Invent2Prevent presents an opportunity to harness diverse perspectives from students from high schools and universities across the nation by providing them with a hands-on opportunity to create their own responses to targeted violence and terrorism impacting their schools and local communities.
“DHS continues to work with communities across the country to help prevent acts of targeted violence. Invent2Prevent uniquely empowers young people to help prevent this violence,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien. “These students have demonstrated that the next generation of leaders is committed to building a more secure and prosperous nation for everyone through connection, digital literacy, and other key tools.”
“When faced with the challenge to educate and prevent targeted violence and acts of hate, I am continually amazed at the range of ideas, strategies, and tactics that young, creative minds can deploy to make the world a better place,” said Tony Sgro, Founder and CEO of EdVenture Partners. “What we saw during this final competition only reconfirms how critically necessary it is to engage our nation’s youth in helping to solve big societal problems.”
“I was thrilled to see such incredible diversity of approaches and significant measures of effectiveness from all of our finalists, both at the high school and university levels,” said Brette Steele, Senior Director of preventing targeted violence for the McCain Institute. “We cannot wait to see what these teams do next as they consider ways to scale and sustain their valuable work.”
As part of this semester-long project, each university team evaluated a current threat facing the nation. They then identified an opportunity to create a program or tool to better educate a specific target audience on the potential vulnerabilities that could lead individuals to commit acts of targeted violence or terrorism. The three university finalists finished in the following order:
American University, Washington, D.C.: D.U.C.C. – Developing and Using Critical Comprehension (D.U.C.C.) is an educational tool for combatting inaccurate information that threatens our security through critical comprehension skills. The D.U.C.C. program cultivates digital literacy among at-risk youth through a comprehensive approach making them less vulnerable and less likely to engage with extremist content online. The D.U.C.C. program consists of online resources and tools equipping students with the critical thinking and emotional intelligence skills needed to identify dangerous behaviors online. The program can be accessed by students, parents, and teachers through an online hub. Visit the D.U.C.C. project at: www.ducc.online/.
Missouri State University, Springfield, MO.: Caliber Gaming Alliance leverages gaming to promote real-life connections among community members in a hate-free environment to reduce risk factors and susceptibility to radicalization among veterans and at-risk youth. Caliber’s game nights and discord server offers members an opportunity to connect, while the mentorship program gives veterans opportunities to educate members on how to protect themselves online through three key pillars: online safety, identifying hate speech, and promoting connections through gaming. Visit the CALIBER project at: www.calibergaming.org/.
University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D.: Be S.E.E.N.N. is an educational program and movement that assesses how invisibility issues can lead to Native Americans becoming targets of violence by hate groups and being discriminated against. Be S.E.E.N.N. educates users about Native Americans and their cultures to lessen the perpetuation of stereotypes, racism, and targeted violence while addressing invisibility issues. Their education module allows students the opportunity to earn a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion badge upon completion. Visit the Be S.E.E.N.N. project at: www.facebook.com/beSEENN22.
As part of this semester-long project, each high school team evaluated a current threat facing their school or community and created a program or initiative to better educate a specific target audience on the potential vulnerabilities that could lead individuals to carry out acts of targeted violence or acts of hate. The three high school finalists finished in the following order:
Marysville High School, Marysville, Ohio: High Five REACT is a high school club that seeks to prevent bullying and discrimination in schools by using games and digital content to mentor elementary and middle school students, promoting pro-social experiences and building protective factors through interpersonal skills and healthy relationships. The team is building a mentoring program between primary and secondary students to encourage a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. Throughout the mentorship program, this team teaches the foundations of how to maintain healthy relationships, forge connections with peers, and develop the tools to successfully engage with social-emotional situations/conflicts. Visit the High Five REACT project at: www.high5mevsd.org/.
Newburyport High School, Newburyport, Mass.: E.P.I.C. is a project that combats isolation and exclusion among vulnerable populations to mitigate potential acts of targeted violence. They work with at-risk eighth-grade Newburyport students who have lost two "normal" years of schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once students complete E.P.I.C.’s curriculum, which focuses on developing teamwork skills across diverse groups, they participate in a group hiking expedition. E.P.I.C has also developed Listen2Learn, which is social media content designed to make members of the Newburyport community feel heard and promote inclusivity by sharing stories of welcoming or unwelcoming times. Visit the EPIC project at: www.instagram.com/nbpt_voices/.
Bob Jones High School, Bob Jones, Ala.: BJ Connect! provides an outlet for students to connect with other students about mental health issues without feeling isolated and the presence of social stigmas. They work with high school students at Bob Jones who are searching for community and an environment conducive to fostering conversations and friendships, as well as Bob Jones faculty who promote a supportive community that recognizes and mitigates social isolation. The initiative encourages communication and connection through weekly Patriot Path sessions, and provides mental health resources through their social media pages. Additionally, the team created the Ask & Tell Card Game to foster new friendships and communication. The game is available in card stock as well as online on Quizlet. Visit the BJ Connect! at: www.instagram.com/officialbjconnect/.
Three Spring 2021 Invent2Prevent teams – Boise State University, Columbia University, and Missouri State University – were awarded Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grants from the Department of Homeland Security. TVTP Grants provide 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. Funding from these grants assists teams in sustainably scaling their unique programs. In 2021, the Department of Homeland Security awarded approximately $20 million in TVTP Grants.
CP3 works with communities to prevent acts of targeted violence and terrorism, including attacks on schools, workplaces, public gatherings, and other settings. CP3 seeks to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow play an active role in designing innovating solutions to build more resilient communities today.