“If you could have any wish, what would you wish for?” When you were a kid, you’d probably ask for unicorns to be real or for superpowers, but what about the kids who dream of world peace, an end to pollution, and the hope for a better life for their families?

Sometimes the simplest question can spark a lifelong passion. But someone has to ask. Someone has to empower our kids to change the world.

See what kids are dreaming about:

Team Kids Dream Peace from Team Kids on Vimeo.

That’s where Team Kids steps in. Team Kids is a nonprofit organization that believes “It’s all about the kids!” UCI joined forces with Team Kids from the start as a founding partner 16 years ago.  That’s why it’s exciting that Team Kids is now a national model of youth development.

UCI’s Strategic Pillar 3 encourages community involvement at the local level. An example of this is the university’s partnership with Team Kids, which is preparing to roll out its successful youth programs nationwide.

To get an insider perspective on this new development, Michael Dennin recently sat down for a “Conversation with the Vice Provost” with Julie Hudash, Founder and CEO of Team Kids Inc. She describes Team Kids as “a very innovative mission that mobilizes multiple agencies, such as local police and firefighters, in a community so that kids can have a chance to make a difference, know they’re valued — that they’re special and needed in the community.”

Julie Hudash gushed about the level of student engagement the coaches of Team Kids achieve: “They might not do their science fair project or finish their homework, but they’ll do the Team Kids Challenge because the kids are really mobilized. We had a teacher who said ‘This changed the way I teach my kids. I understand they’re capable of so much more.’”

The flagship program of the organization is called the Team Kids Challenge. This empirically validated program is taught at public elementary schools. Its message is that every child has the opportunity to change the world. Last year 24,000 students completed the Team Kids Challenge in 12 cities, from Orange County to Arlington County, Virginia.  The Team Kids Challenge is swiftly becoming a national model because it can be implemented anywhere there is a school, police department, or fire department.

Working with police, firefighters, and other mentors, kids are empowered to put their dreams to change the world into action, and they are tackling their community’s toughest problems right now. To quote the organization’s values statement, the Team Kids challenge can change a child’s life and encourage them “to become the next generation of compassionate leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists.”

 See Team Kids in Action –

Team Kids Challenge In Action from Team Kids on Vimeo.

As a way to teach the students about philanthropy, Team Kids’ participants raise funds year round to support other charitable organization. Team Kids was on the receiving end of donations when it benefitted from donations from students in UCI Professor Gillian Hayes’ philanthropy class.

According to Julie Hudash, Vice Provost “Michael Dennin is a visionary leader, as he continues to build powerful partnerships that deliver innovative and exponential impact for the advancement of his students and for the community.”

Michael Dennin’s involvement proves that mentors from higher education and business can have a huge impact on student lives.

Team Kids is excited to continue their powerful connections to UCI, including a decade long field study internship program, a partnership with the UCI athletic team, and UCI students who have served as interns and staff. It was also announced that UCI professor Gillian Hayes was unanimously voted in as a member of the Team Kids Board of Directors.

Team Kids’ programs focus on building positive experiences for youth. They also protect against harmful behaviors such as substance use, gang involvement, and delinquent activity.  Bringing together stakeholders from education, government, public safety, and business, the programs have the potential to create successful outcomes for all involved. Working together, communities can support the healthy development of children, encourage youth’s positive efforts, and empower America’s future.

Team Kids takes pride in delivering its programs at no cost to the school district or the students they serve, and they donate 100% of all youth-generated proceeds to charities other than Team Kids.

Learn more about Team Kids, and consider making a financial donation at https://www.teamkids.org/.