In 2011, the Step Up Executive Gang Task Force recognized the need to target their prevention efforts toward middle school aged youth. The Step Up Youth Challenge was created to provide an opportunity for middle school and high schools to engage a diverse group of students in a project-based learning challenge throughout the course of a school year.  The Youth Challenge is entering it's third year, with 35 schools and over 500 youth participating county-wide for the 2017-2018 school year. 
What is the Challenge?
The Step Up Challenge takes place over the course of a school year, beginning in October and ending in April of each school year.  Teams of middle and high school students from large and small campuses around the County create service learning projects that will have long-term positive effects at their schools and their communities. Teams are encouraged to choose a project that addresses issues such as gangs, drug abuse, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, non-violence, or suicide prevention. By early April, the teams will complete their projects and submit a project summary documenting its success. The top five teams in each school bracket (middle or high school) will be awarded grants totaling $13,000. Winners will be announced and all participants will be honored at a red carpet event in early May at the Fox Theater in Visalia.
“One of the most important features of the Step Up Youth Challenge is that the projects developed for each campus will be youth-designed and youth-driven,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We know from experience that youth-driven projects have a greater potential for success. We are anxious to see what develops at each one of the project schools.”
Past projects include:
 Community clean-up and graffiti abatement in Poplar
 Partnership with homeless shelter in Dinuba
 Anti-Bullying campaign in Tulare
 Teen pregnancy awareness and prevention outreach in Visalia 
 Partnership with the Tulare County Animal Shelter