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Youth “Step Up” to improve Loudoun

The top three entrants from the Step Up Loudoun 2013 contest accept their checks, with Anoop Hariharan (center) earning the largest check at $1,000. —Courtesy Photo
Step Up Loudoun 2013

-1st place:
Learning Instantly
Anoop Hariharan, J. Michael Lunsford Middle School

-2nd place:
Mission Possible: Knock Out Bullying
Aashish Batheja, Robin Jiang, Raghav Saravanan, Harish Sundar, J. Micheal Lunsford Middle School

-3rd place:
Share A Smile
Courtney Latourrette, Kristen Langley, Brian Mitchell, Courtney Davis, Torie Alfonso, Briar Woods High School

Seventh-grader Anoop Hariharan of J. Michael Lunsford Middle School in Chantilly noticed something while taking his Standards of Learning tests.

They were getting harder.

But rather than focus on just taking care of his own academics, or simply complaining, Hariharan came up with a plan to help make his classmates up to the challenge.

Hariharan researched the benefits of learning via student-created content and set out to create his own educational platform. After contacting the Virginia Department of Education to access old SOL tests, Hariharan created videos and worksheets to teach his peers. LearningInstantly.com was born.
A link to Hariharan's website was put on the desktop of every computer at J. Lunsford Middle School.

Hariharan's efforts were rewarded March 7 at the National Rural Utilities Cooperation Finance Corporation building, when the skinny, bespectacled middle schooler was presented with a cardboard check for $1,000 as the winner of Step Up Loudoun 2013.

“It feels incredible. I'm in shock. My legs are actually shaking,” said Hariharan, who beat out 38 other projects created by middle and high school students from all over Loudoun, to win.

Step Up Loudoun was originally created in 2005, but took several years off before being resuscitated by Mike Morgan in 2010. While the original event was more of a showcase, Morgan decided to resurrect Step Up as a competition.

“We felt very passionately about bringing it back in a new and improved format and that was where the idea of the competition came in,” Morgan.

Under the new format, area youth select an problem, risk or concern facing Loudoun. Students then research the issue, devise a solution and implement it. The event culminates in a final contest, where participants display a science fair board of their project and pitch their idea to judges.

“It's great to get an idea of what youth think is important,” said Kristin Garrett, who helped Morgan restart the program. “It's kind of a snapshot of youth in the county.”

This year's issues ranged from bullying and depression to Lyme disease and cancer. The top three projects received prizes of $250, $500 and $1000, while fourth through 10th place earned $100 each.

Hariharan is less worried about the money and more concerned about expanding his project; last year's winners, GRL-PWR, started by Bria Toussaint and Royal Phillips, is now a nonprofit. Hariharan has already stated plans on donating the money back to his middle school and hopes they'll help him further develop his program.

“I hope to expand this to every school in Loudoun,” Hariharan said. “I want every teacher to think this is something they can use.”


Oh, and I’m pretty sure that supposed to be:
National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation

CONGRATULATIONS to all participants and winners!  Please visit www.stepuploudoun.org.

The Step Up Loudoun Planning Committee consists of members of Loudoun Youth Inc www.loudounyouth.org, Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PRCS) www.loudounteens.org, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) www.lcps.org, Loudoun County Advisory Commission on Youth (ACOY), Loudoun County Youth Advisory Council (YAC) www.loudounteeens.org, and Leadership Loudoun www.leadershiploudoun.org.

THANK YOU Kristin Garrett (PRCS), Jared Melvin, Carol Kost, & Barbara Josselyn (Loudoun Youth Inc), all the judges, YouthQuest www.youthquestfoundation.org for sponsoring, and National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (NRUCFC) www.nrucfc.coop for hosting.

Our team is very proud of the program and the middle & high school participants who “stepped up” as individuals & groups to address youth issues, risks, concerns, & opportunities and be a part of the solution.  Their community impact projects are very creative and inspiring!

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