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North Panola Career and Technical Center team wins national award for anti-bullying initiative

North Panola team woohoo
A team from North Panola Career and Technical Center was given national recognition for its anti-bullying initiative (photo courtesy of Arizona State University)

One team of Mississippi high schoolers has received national accolades for an initiative aimed at reducing bullying.

A group from North Panola Career and Technical Center was recently named the national high school winner of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Invent2Prevent (I2P) contest, which challenges students to create and implement peer-developed initiatives, products, and tools to prevent targeted violence and hate.

In late January, the DHS Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) hosted 27 students in Washington, D.C. who were selected as finalists from three out of 18 universities and three out of 24 high schools. The finalists developed innovative projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism in their communities.

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 to a panel of judges for the opportunity to be awarded funding to carry out their proposed initiatives.

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.

The student-led initiative supports embracing empathy and fostering a culture of prevention that results in a shared commitment to creating safe spaces and positive relationships to form a united front against bullying and peer pressure.

“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,” Jeniya Lions, a student at North Panola Career and Technical Center, said. “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.”

In all, 13 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.

The I2P contest launched in spring 2021, and more than 1,200 students from 119 universities across 32 states and Washington, D.C., and 138 high schools across 25 states have participated.

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