Team Up Challenge Winners Improve Their Community

Katie Funk/spurs.com

  • The summer Team Up Challenge, presented by AT&T, is accepting applications from youth serving nonprofits through May 15. Click here to download the application. (PDF)

  • The Student Council at Randolph High School wanted to save lives. Alarmed by a grim national statistic -- car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in America -- the Student Council created a DriveSMART program that discourages distracted driving.

    Under the guidance of English teacher and Student Council sponsor Amanda Bauer, council members persuaded more than 2,000 students to sign a “No Text While Driving” pledge, hosted a “Black Out” pep rally to illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving and distributed a monthly newsletter packed with information to reduce distracted driving.

    “The kids have been so excited about this because they can see they are making a difference,” Bauer says. “They see students wearing DriveSMART wrist bands and some wearing DriveSMART T-shirts.”

    The DriveSMART campaign earned Randolph High School a $20,000 check from Silver and Black Give Back, the charitable arm of Spurs Sports & Entertainment. Randolph and four other schools emerged as winners in an area-wide service learning project competition called, “Team-Up Challenge.”

    The Team Up Challenge -- now in its second year -- is a service-learning program that encourages children from 24 area school districts to design projects to improve their communities. The projects fell in five categories: Arts and Culture, Education, Environment, Health and Wellness and Uniformed Services.

    The Team Up Challenge attracted 74 schools. Twenty schools were selected as semifinalists, with each receiving $2500 to work on their projects throughout the year. The semifinalists presented their projects to a review committee. Five champions were named.

    Harlandale High School, Rogers Elementary, Watts Elementary and Peterson Middle School in Kerrville joined Randolph as the 2011-12 Team-Up Challenge champions, with each claiming a $20,000 cash prize. The winning schools were recognized at the AT&T Center during halftime of the Spurs-Suns game on April 14 and again at the Rampage-Aeros game the following day.

    The Coyote, a Silver Dancer and Spurs Sports & Entertainment staff surprised students at each winning school with a check. “It was amazing,” Bauer says. “The door opened, the Coyote came in, the check came in and the kids’ eyes got bigger and bigger. They were shocked at first. Then they started jumping up and down, screaming and clapping.”

    Other winning projects included:

  • Students in Virginia Boyce’s second-grade class at Rogers Elementary launched a plan to be the first in their family to attend college. To put their dream into action, the class hosted College Night at their school, performed college-centered activities, and took a field trip to Austin to learn about college life. Ten students started college savings accounts. They will use the award to bring College Night to other schools and create a College Corner in their library.
  • The Harlandale High School PAWS club rescued stray animals in the neighborhood, educated peers on responsible pet ownership, created satellite clubs at Harlandale Middle and Gilbert Elementary, and spayed/neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated 52 strays.

    They will use the cash award to to expand the program to other schools, pay off their vet bill, host spay/neuter clinics at their school and sponsor a mobile spay/neuter van for their district.

  • Students at Watts Elementary School with family members in the military created a support network for friends who have loved ones serving overseas. Members of the “We Serve Too” group also led a toy drive for children in Afghanistan, collecting more than 200 stuffed animals and hundreds of coloring books and crayons. They will use the award to make Fly-Away Bags for deploying service members and create a scholarship through Operation Homefront.
  • A student group at Peterson Middle School called “Soul Mates” raised community awareness on hunger. Soul Mates raised $1500 from an auction and used the money to bring the San Antonio Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry to Kerrville. Students also held a food drive, lining 1.3 miles of one street with food items. Soul Mates will use its cash prize to offer more support to food pantries and continue their program until they graduate in 2017.

    Randolph students will use their prize to award Drive SMART grants to other schools and maintain their own program. Inspired by a speech from a mother who lost a daughter to a drunken driver, the student council created the acronym SMART to encourage teens to be better drivers.

    “The ‘S’ stands for ‘Stay off the roads at night,’” Bauer says. “The ‘M’ means ‘Minimize distractions.’ The ‘A’ -- Always wear your seatbelt. The ‘R’ -- Resist the urge to speed. And the ‘T’ -- Take responsibility for your life. Don’t drink and drive.’”

    Nearly 60 percent of Randolph juniors surveyed at the beginning of the school year said they had texted at least once while driving in the past month. The DriveSMART campaign, Bauer says, has certainly lowered that percentage. Students will be able to gauge the impact of the program at the end of the school year when a second survey is taken.