March 2, 2024

North Panola Career and Technical Center wins top prize in national contest to combat violence

Mary Apel

Featured Image: North Panola Career and Technical Center students receive the first place award in the national Invent2Prevent contest
from Bill Braniff, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3.)

Congrats are in order! Last month North Panola Career and Technical Center was awarded the prestigious national high school title in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Invent2Prevent (I2P) competition. This contest challenges students to develop and implement peer-driven initiatives, products, and tools aimed at preventing targeted violence and hate.

On January 24, the DHS’ Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) hosted 27 students in Washington, D.C., who were selected as finalists from a pool of 18 universities and 24 high schools. The finalists showcased innovative projects focused on preventing targeted violence and terrorism in their communities. The University category winner was Iowa State University, while North Panola Career and Technical Center secured the victory in the high school category.

Throughout a semester-long endeavor, each team addressed a pressing national threat, such as campus safety, cyberbullying, and violent extremism. Teams devised programs or tools to educate their communities or leverage existing strengths to reduce the risk of targeted violence and terrorism. At the final round in Washington, D.C., students presented their projects to a panel of judges for the chance to secure funding to implement their proposed initiatives. These winning teams will utilize the resources to further develop and expand their projects.

The North Panola Career and Technical Center team introduced Peer No Pressure, a dedicated initiative providing students aged 12-18 with a safe and supportive environment to combat bullying and peer pressure. Through peer-led discussions, engaging skits, and a mentorship program, Peer No Pressure aims to reshape the narrative surrounding peer pressure and bullying. It fosters an atmosphere where the voices of peers hold significance and drive positive change, promoting empathy and a preventive culture that fosters safe spaces and healthy relationships to combat bullying and peer pressure collectively.

Jeniya Lyons, a student at North Panola Career and Technical Center, expressed gratitude, stating, “Invent2Prevent has been instrumental and motivating throughout our semester-long project. It provided us with a platform to address an important issue in our community.” She added, “Peer No Pressure has had a significant impact on our community, attracting widespread attention. With the support of I2P, we are amplifying our message and effecting change within our community.”

William Braniff, Director of CP3, emphasized the importance of community-driven prevention efforts, noting, “Programs like I2P offer young minds the chance to collaborate in tackling the most pressing challenges of our time. The rising generation of change-makers recognizes that targeted violence and terrorism are preventable and is empowering their peers and schools to do just that. I am inspired by their dedication to building safe and resilient communities.”

Thirteen I2P teams have continued their projects successfully through the McCain Institute Sustainment Program, with four teams securing additional funding through DHS CP3’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program. The I2P contest, launched in spring 2021, engaged over 1,200 students from 119 universities in 32 states and Washington, D.C., as well as 138 high schools across 25 states.

CP3 aims to engage future leaders in designing innovative solutions to bolster community resilience through programs like Invent2Prevent. The TVTP Grant Program offers funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nonprofits, and higher education institutions to enhance their capabilities in preventing targeted violence and terrorism. In 2022, DHS allocated $20 million in TVTP Grants, with over $1 million awarded to amplify the impact of previous Invent2Prevent initiatives.

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