Polk MS Students Combat Viral Illegal, Destructive TikTok Challenges with #LeadTheWayChallenge

As a way to combat destructive and illegal TikTok Challenges that have gone viral on the social media platform, students at Ted Polk Middle School are participating in the #LeadTheWayChallenge with a focus on building a positive school culture.

Ted Polk MS Principal Kelly O’Sullivan presented the #LeadTheWayChallenge to students in the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

“As an AVID National Demonstration School, our AVID scholars truly lead the way in establishing the culture for Polk,” AVID teacher Natalia Dobbs said. “We wanted our AVID scholars to change the narrative of current viral trends to something that we could all be proud of and that would promote a culture where we all feel safe and welcomed.”

Dobbs and the school’s other AVID teachers Lizette Belmonte and Bianca Chapman supported the students’ ideas and solutions to this current, real-world problem. The students created videos to express themselves, model acts of kindness and leadership, and share with the world through all social media platforms.

“The AVID scholars started the #LeadTheWayChallenge, but our goal is to encourage other students to keep it going,” Dobbs said. “After all, every student at Polk is an AVID scholar.”

AVID students are passing the challenge to the Polk MS Journalism team for next month’s #LeadTheWayChallenge. Each month, a new Polk group or organization will keep the challenge and kind acts going strong. The videos are also being shared by the Journalism team in their news reports, via the school’s newsletter, The Panther News, and in the school-wide video announcements played to students each day during their advisory class period.

The challenge is already having an impact.

“The challenge has helped with classroom discussions during restorative time and with behavior in and outside of the classroom,” Dobbs said. “It has also helped inspire more acts of kindness.”

Because of the challenge, on National Custodian Day, Oct. 1, several students showed appreciation to the school’s custodial staff by helping clean the school. Through this act, students became aware of what the custodians do each day and how their actions impact the crew's workday.

“Our head custodian said during lunch, ‘this was the best day of my life’,” Dobbs said. “That had a huge impact on our students to see how their good deeds, even as small as cleaning up during lunch, can affect others and the overall culture of our campus.”

Students are now asking to help in the cafeteria and around the school. Through the challenge, they are learning about citizenship and leadership.

“Students have overcome so much since enduring a world-wide pandemic,” Chapman said. “To see them lead the way and spread positivity despite what is going on in society is impeccable.”

O’Sullivan agreed.

“Our students have amazing hearts and want to make a positive difference in the world,” O’Sullivan said.

The challenge has also caused students to take more pride in their school.

“We are having open discussions about what we want to be known for at Polk and what we can do to create that culture,” Dobbs said. “Kindness is apparent in our halls. Since the videos are posted on social media, students can share and comment on how they are a part of this great movement. We would love to see other schools in the district and across the globe take on the #LeadTheWayChallenge.”​

To watch the #LeadTheWayChallenge videos, follow @PolkMSPanthers on Twitter.