Students from 23 universities and 18 high schools nationwide submitted projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their communities
WASHINGTON – On June 28, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), in collaboration with EdVenture Partners, Credence Management Solutions and the McCain Institute, hosted the finalists of Invent2Prevent, a program that empowers university and high school students to develop innovative projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their local communities. Xavier University of Louisiana and Glassboro High School of Glassboro, New Jersey were named the winners of the university and high school categories, respectively.
Xavier University’s project, Still We R.O.S.E., works to educate students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the surge of antisemitism to prevent the dangerous spread of antisemitic rhetoric in the African American community. Glassboro High School’s project, R.E.S.P.E.C.T., creates a mentorship program to connect incoming freshman with upperclassman and reduce student isolation.
“The Invent2Prevent program gives some of our nation’s most talented young people an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the prevention process and help us better understand the threats faced by individual communities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Teams were challenged to consider not only how they might counter targeted violence, terrorism, and acts of hate, but also how to empower initiatives that advocate for community connectedness and inclusivity, mentorship, and the accessibility of pro-social activities. The winners and finalists rose to that challenge and the work they are doing is vital to safeguarding our future.”
Since Invent2Prevent was launched in Spring 2021, more than 1,100 students have participated in the program at 119 universities across 32 states and Washington, D.C. and 92 high schools across 22 states. Through the DHS CP3 funded program, collegiate teams are able to further advance and scale their initiatives and projects.
“Our Invent2Prevent students are at the forefront of innovation in the prevention field," said Brette Steele, Senior Director for Preventing Targeted Violence at the McCain Institute. “Each semester, we look to them to help us develop solutions that resonate and build resilience in their respective communities. Congratulations to all the finalist teams on their outstanding presentations and all their hard work this semester.”
“There is nothing more exciting than an auditorium charged with the anticipation of discovering what our Invent2Prevent finalists have created,” said Tony Sgro, Founder and CEO of EdVenture Partners. “With each Invent2Prevent competition, we are consistently reminded of how capable, talented, brilliant, and innovative our nation’s youth are. The level of design, the unique approach to hard topics, and the caliber of execution from each of our finalist teams surpasses all our expectations time and time again. But the greatest pleasure of this program is watching the confidence that quietly builds over the course of the semester, especially for our high school students. To have students walk away knowing that they already possess the ability to create a brighter and safer future and that they are supported in their endeavors to create lasting change is the core mission of Invent2Prevent.”
During the final round of competition in Washington, D.C., students presented their projects to a panel of judges for a chance to be awarded funding to support their proposed initiatives. As part of this semester-long project, each university team evaluated a current threat facing the nation, such as gun violence, antisemitism, and radicalization. The teams then identified an opportunity to create a program or tool to better educate or build on the strengths of their community to decrease the likelihood of targeted violence and terrorism.
The three university finalists finished in the following order:
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA, 1st Place
The Xavier University of Louisiana team created Still We R.O.S.E., an initiative to embolden students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to stand up against the resurgence of antisemitism in the United States, including in the African American community. Generation Z students, while digitally savvy due to young exposure to the internet, may not have the tools to distinguish between truth and conspiracies online. Still We R.O.S.E. confronts factually incorrect and dangerous narratives spread in the African American community about Jewish Americans.
John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 2nd Place
The John Hopkins University team created My Vibe Check, an online tool developed in response to the alarming number of school shootings in the United States. My Vibe Check is an online tool that helps students and school counselors assess students’ emotional wellness trends and helps leverage student/counselor relationships. Students anonymously report their daily feelings through a secure questionnaire based on professional threat assessment standards, and that information is consolidated into easy-to-understand graphics for counselors to view in real time. My Vibe Check is intended to assess the well-being of the student environment, increase the protective factors of positive school environments, including awareness, trust, and communication. It could also improve mental health services in schools by helping counselors to identify students who could benefit from additional support such as through journaling and online resources.
George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 3rd Place
The George Washington University team created Talk with Me, an initiative which introduces critical thinking and analysis through debate in order to combat radicalization, violent conspiracy theories, and other forms of manipulation that push youth toward violent extremism. Talk with Me seeks to counter the “us vs. them” narrative by hosting an online platform and competition for at-risk youth, ages 16-24. According to a 2023 report completed by the U.S. Secret Service, an estimated one-quarter of mass attacks from 2016-2020 were driven by personal grievances, belief in conspiracy theories, and hateful ideologies. Research has proven that de-platforming can be counterproductive, and that honest critical dialogue is a better way to build trust and connection. Through structured, moderated debate in a safe environment, Talk with Me is intended to empower youth to think critically, identify illogical arguments, discern whether a source is reliable, and acknowledge and deal with the perspectives from an alternative viewpoint.
The three high school finalists finished in the following order:
Glassboro High School, Glassboro, NJ, 1st Place
The Glassboro High School team created R.E.S.P.E.C.T (Reach Every Student Providing Encouraging Caring Thoughts), an initiative to resolve social isolation in student populations at their school. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. involves a mentorship program that connects incoming freshmen or underclassmen with upperclassman mentors to effectively introduce and familiarize students with the school and environment. This program helps underclassmen assimilate into the student population, helping to reduce the possibility of student isolation. Mentors serve as a source of information, familiar face, or role model. Mentors introduce their mentees to the high school faculty and staff during freshman orientation and show them around the building. Mentors provide a welcoming feeling to the incoming underclassmen and encourage them to get involved in school activities, clubs, or sports.
Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy, Elizabeth, NJ, 2nd Place
The Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy created MyRoom, an app that guides children and young teens away from the path of bullying others. MyRoom was created with the goal to foster healthy habits, develop a sense of community, and educate users on healthy coping mechanisms. With over 10 different customizable features, MyRoom provides a personalized experience curated to create a safe space for users. MyRoom implements a variety of mental wellness resources and connects users with mental health professionals. The app provides opportunities for daily affirmations, journaling, playing games, and tracking daily healthy habits such as drinking water and caring for a pet.
Passaic County Technical Vocational Schools, Wayne, NJ, 3rd Place
The Passaic County Technical Vocational Schools created the Ending Insensibility campaign to stop violence and bullying against those with disabilities. Twenty percent of the student body at Passaic County Technical Vocational Schools have special needs. Ending Insensibility believes that bullying against people with disabilities is a widespread and recurring issue but is rarely talked about in school communities. The #endinsensibility social media campaign was launched to raise awareness of this issue. Ending Insensibility aims to promote a safe school environment by reducing the occurrence of bullying of people with disabilities, educating people about the different kinds of disabilities, and dispelling misconceptions related to the special needs community.
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR PREVENTION PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS
The Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (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 Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (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, the Department of Homeland Security 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