At Tech Preparatory High School in Tulare, a group of students participated in what’s called the “Step Up Youth Challenge.” The group got to work on a project they would call “Ground Zero.”

Their goal was to develop positive coping mechanisms that would help some find relief from the emotional, social and physical pains experienced during the pandemic. This team created a fund to celebrate campus birthdays, holiday gatherings and a soccer team.

11th grader Anthony Flores says they came up with the idea to make sure everyone felt appreciated.

“It kind of made everybody feel special in their own individual way because we are actually paying tribute to their birthday and giving them the attention everybody deserves,” Flores explains. “Because on your birthday, it’s your day.”

Together, this small group of students put on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations for the entire Tech Preparatory High School. The group’s “Step Up” leader says even though they won the challenge with their project it was about so much more than a prize.

“They came together, they started feeling good about each other, they started feeling good about themselves, and I think that is really, really important,” said Liz Rocha, counselor and behavior specialist at Tech Prep High School.

Through the challenge, Flores says he’s not only made new friends but has helped other students make new connections.

“It’s gotten me into actually helping other kids, break out of their shell and be more comfortable around others,” Flores says.