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  4. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships Invent2Prevent Student Program Winners Announced 

Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships Invent2Prevent Student Program Winners Announced 

Release Date: July 1, 2024

On June 26, 2024, high school and college students led the movement to protect their local communities as they showcased their ideas to prevent targeted violence and terrorism during the Invent2Prevent (I2P) Spring 2024 competition finals. 

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), I2P empowers youth to play a pivotal role in preventing targeted violence and creating more resilient local communities. The student teams presented their projects to judges from academia, education, and government sectors to win funds to further their initiatives. 

“Preventing targeted violence is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, and we are committed to working with and empowering our partners across the nation to do so,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Kristie Canegallo. “The Invent2Prevent program is a critical part of this work, and this event demonstrates our support for youth-led initiatives to develop innovative, community-based programs to reduce targeted violence and terrorism at campuses and communities across the country.”

During the final event, the University of Maryland College Park won at the collegiate level, and Penn Manor High School won at the high school level.

The University of Maryland’s project, infOasis, equips teens with the media literacy skills needed to engage with digital content thoughtfully, critically, and responsibly. "I’m so thankful for such an amazing opportunity to help enhance our homeland security and make a tangible impact on my peers," said Zoe Cross, University of Maryland student. "infOasis has a such a bright future ahead of it and I can’t wait to continue the mission of empowering teens through critical thinking skills."

Penn Manor High School’s project, Friday Fun, transforms study halls into periods for students and teachers to engage in prosocial activities to decrease stress and social isolation. "I2P not only widened our perspectives, but it was inspiring as young people to be included in the conversation of how to protect our communities," Fatuma Mussa, Penn Manor High School student said.

In total, students from 53 universities and high schools competed nationwide for the Spring 2024 competition. Each team identified opportunities to improve the health and wellness of their schools, campuses, and communities and then developed a relevant initiative to decrease the likelihood of violence.

"I'm so inspired by the students who participated in the spring competition at a challenging time for schools and universities,” said CP3 Director Bill Braniff. “Targeted violence and terrorism are preventable, and these students showed us and the rest of the nation that by investing in strengths, like coping skills, critical thinking, relationship building, heightened community awareness, and physical and mental wellness we can sow the seeds of prevention.”

Since Invent2Prevent began in 2021, more than 1,200 students have participated, representing 119 universities across 33 states and the District of Columbia, along with 138 high schools from 26 states.

Previous I2P finalists have applied for a year-long sustainment program to build on their projects’ successes. So far, 13 collegiate teams have participated in the sustainment program. One past winner that participated in the sustainment program, George Washington University (GWU), won third place with its Talk with Me: Debate to Deflate Hate project in 2023. The sustainment program helped to create a nationwide debate competition to combat hate and promote civil discourse.

As a part of the competition, four educators and approximately 50 college and high school students submitted written arguments for how best to address hateful rhetoric in schools while respecting free speech and academic freedom. During lunch hour of the Spring I2P final, the top two students with the best speeches debated live for prize money on whether social media poses a detriment to national security or protects lives.

I2P finalists can also apply for a DHS CP3 Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention grant to further increase their impact. So far, more than $2.6 million in grants have been awarded to support and sustain student-developed programs.

The following are the complete results for the Spring 2024 final competition:

University Competition

1st Place, University of Maryland College Park: The team developed infOasis to fill the critical gaps in media literacy education. The project created a unique set of online toolkits with interactive modules and fun, modern mini games to enhance media literacy skills. The toolkit is free and accessible for everyone, but undergraduate college students are the target demographic. Many college students struggle to detect manipulative content due to the volume of information they are exposed to when entering college. Through this hands-on learning experience, InfOasis helps students gain and apply critical thinking skills when consuming or creating media.

2nd Place, Missouri State University: The team created the C.R.A.N.E. Project (Creating Resilient Atmospheres through Natural Exercise) to prevent bullying and social isolation in schools through physical exercise. Research has shown that students who feel lonely can also have an associated increase in aggressive behavior or a lack of inhibition. This tool helps students release anger or negative thoughts in a healthier way by participating in yoga or martial arts. Teachers received videos of yoga and martial arts by certified instructors to share with their students and were educated on the benefits of mindfulness. The project focuses on 4th-8th grade students because the team found that they are most susceptible to issues like social isolation and anxiety and need effective coping mechanisms.

3rd Place, Ohio Dominican University: The team’s Shelve the Hate: a Toolkit for Action project empowers librarians to play a pivotal role in the fight against targeted violence and online mobilization to violence. SHELVE stands for See, Hear, Evaluate, Learn, Voice, and Empower – a call to action to educate today’s youth and raise awareness about preventing this violence. The toolkit provides resources, ideas, guides, graphics, research, and links to national organizations that share ways to prevent targeted violence. Through a website, middle school, high school, college, and community librarians can share these tools with fellow educators, parents, and students. In this way, the project seeks to empower libraries as a natural gathering place to centralize prevention efforts.

High School Competition 

1st Place, Penn Manor High School: The team’s Friday Fun project seeks to create positive emotions among students and teachers to reduce stress and social isolation. High school students and teachers engaged in prosocial activities, like group games, friendship-making bracelets, door-decorating, “Fast Friends” BINGO, and pet-therapy. The project is based on the broaden and build theory in positive psychology, which suggests that when people enjoy themselves, they tend to feel positive emotions, which can increase their well-being and resilience. Through these activities, the team seeks to create connections and a sense of community, protective factors that can decrease the likelihood of violence. They hope to use this as an opportunity to increase awareness of mental health and the importance of checking-in on peers.

2nd Place, Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women: The team’s Bridging the Gap project aims to reduce tension between youth of color and police officers in downtown Brooklyn, New York. A survey of 116 students at the school showed that over 90% did not feel safe in the presence of police officers. To lower this tension, the student team created unique one-pagers and presentations for 500 students and 30 officers that explain the need for improving relationships and how to do so. The team also held a field day event for students and officers where they were able to break down barriers, begin to form relationships, and create a safer and more resilient community.

3rd Place, Englewood S.T.E.M. High School: The team created Mind Over Mad-Her as an anti-violence initiative to reduce female-on-female bullying in high school. It seeks to bring young women together by identifying and celebrating their commonalities and differences. The team made zero-cost group therapy available to both victims and perpetrators of female bullying. This therapy supports the development of positive coping skills and empathy that offset negative feelings. The project supports young women to recognize how traumatic experiences can subconsciously influence the way they handled anxiety and insecurity.

If you are interested in having your school participate in future competitions, please contact CP3StrategicEngagement@hq.dhs.gov for more information on how to apply and create a project.

References herein to non-governmental organizations are for informational purposes only. References do not constitute an official endorsement of the organization or project, its work, or its product or services by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Federal Government.

Last Updated: 07/01/2024
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