Amidst the school closures around the country during the COVID- 19 pandemic, many families were at a loss for how to keep their teens focused on positive activities throughout an entire day, let alone weeks at a time. In response, Ascend used a key feature of its goal-setting software platform to launch Challenge Accepted!, a free program to engage students during their time at home. Within just a few weeks, 800 students proactively created accounts and took on over 3,200 challenges. While 16 students were awarded college scholarships, the benefits went far beyond winning a cash prize. Students reported that Challenge Accepted! supported their physical, mental, and emotional health during their time at home.
Challenge Accepted! had some challenges that dealt with self-reflection and those challenges were helpful in making me feel better during this harsh time in our world. – Program participant
Challenge Accepted! allowed students to get rewarded for completing simple challenges they could do while at home, including taking Khan Academy courses, virtually touring art and science museums, engaging in online fitness classes, and cooking a new recipe for their families. Through the completion of these small goals, students earned points, which gave them the chance to win $500 college scholarships. Two scholarships were awarded each week for eight weeks.
As challenges were created, the physical, mental, emotional, and social needs of students were kept top of mind. Each challenge required proof of completion and reflective questions for the students to consider in order to facilitate a growth mindset. Many challenges were designed to promote meaningful activities without a device or screen. “I used to be on my phone from 9:00 am to 2:00 am. [Doing] the challenges made me force myself to be productive and make good use of my time,” said a student participant.
Students were challenged to take online cardio or HIIT fitness courses, run or walk a mile outside, do yoga, and stretch. Over 60% of students who responded to an online survey reported that Challenge Accepted! helped them stay physically healthy during their time at home. “It’s kept me more active and made sure I didn’t sit around all day doing just homework or binge-watching shows,” said one student. Another student responded that the physical challenges “push[ed] me to work out harder and be conscious of what I’m doing.”
Challenges were also created to help students find meaningful activities to promote personal growth and to connect with friends or family members. Similarly, 60% of survey participants reported that the program supported their mental or emotional health through positive activities like meditation, creating art from recycled materials, journaling, and writing letters of gratitude to first responders. “It helped me look outside myself for a bit. I loved writing those letters to the first responders, it really made me feel good,” said one student. “There were challenges like the meditation which helped me take a deep breath and take a step back,” said another.
The challenges make me ponder about what I want for my future and how amazing it is going to be. When I get down or don’t feel good mentally, I remember with some of the challenges that in ten years my life will be better and how I want it.– Program participant
Challenges are just one feature of the Ascend software platform that organizations can use to promote, track, and measure student achievement. They enable program managers to broadcast goals out to a group of students, and to track the completion and documentation of goal achievement. Organizations like college and career preparation programs, mentoring programs, youth summer camps, and schools are using challenges to track student engagement and progress virtually.
Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and mentoring organizations to cultivate, track, and measure student goals and achievement. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and beyond.