Founders Blog

Meet the Founder

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Julie Hudash is the founder and CEO of Team Kids. Julie’s interest lies in securing systemic community change for youth, through harnessing innovative partnerships to inspire our youngest citizens.

Julie is a Graduate of University of Southern California, where she majored in Communications. She also attended graduate school at University of Missouri St. Louis as a Masters student in Educational Counseling. As captain of her USC Track team, it was through the power of teamwork and community service that Julie first discovered the joy in helping others.

Julie is also a writer who tackles difficult issues on behalf of children. She’s had several pieces published in The Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register. Her focus is on youth advocacy issues, such as youth development, child safety, and the importance of youth-led activities to help kids thrive.

Julie and her husband Ray live in Irvine, CA, and are the proud parents of five great kids. Her children served as the inspiration for the founding of Team Kids. All five kids continue to play a key role in the success and expansion of the organization!
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Exciting Team Kids Research Results

Exciting Team Kids Research Results

This photo captures onIMG_6352e of my favorite Team Kids’ moments.  Dr. Julie Tapp is at our Board Retreat sharing our newly created Team Kids Logic Model, along with initial results from the evaluation report of our pre/post evaluation from our Torrance expansion.  

Julie Tapp is one of the key architects of the Team Kids Challenge. She first served as our Chief Program Officer, taking the program I created, and was teaching on the frontline, and  developed our current Team Kids Challenge training, program manual and curriculum.

Julie is back on board as our lead researcher for our recent Team Kids Challenge evaluation in Torrance, and also now in Compton.    After 15 years of delivering a program that all of us at Team Kids know is critical, it’s so exciting now to have even this initial data fueling our mission. 

Julie shared the data from the pre/post surveys, showing  significant growth -in almost every area tested. The report highlights strengthening of the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets,  which research shows helps kids make better choices and can reduce high risk behavior.   Another very exciting area of significant change was made possible, thanks to the commitment of  our firefighter and police mentors. The report shows a powerful change in perception and trust with public safety -in particular police- in survey questions such as “police help kids succeed” and “police officers think I can make a difference in my community,” among others.

We are on an exciting path with data and outcomes that further prove what we’ve all witnessed and known… that it’s not just another program that kids need to be successful.  It’s relationships. It’s relationships with people with power, people who care, and people who can make our youngest generation know that they are a much needed resource in their community. 

Thanks Dr. Tapp for your tireless dedication to this great mission.  You are helping pave the roadway for the Team Kids Mission to empower exponentially more students as powerful leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.  Its our next generation that can make our world a better place for all. 

The 3 Health Benefits of Community Service

The 3 Health Benefits of Community Service

Why You Should Roll-up Your Sleeves to Serve

Engaging in good deeds and acts of kindness have real health benefits. In short, when you help others, you help yourself. Here are just 3 ways that lending a helping hand in your community promotes your mental and physical health.

  1. Improve Your Self Worth. Helping others improves your sense of self-efficacy. You get the opportunity to perform tasks for which you can see the fruit of your labor. YoIMG_0218u connect to a larger goal and are motivated by why you are doing.it. When you are able to see how your actions are helping others, you are immediately rewarded. This improvement in your self worth will keep you mentally and emotionally healthy. This is why Team Kids’ hands-on, youth-led service projects led West Ed to conclude that the Team Kids Challenge increased youth participants’ sense of self-efficacy.IMG_1669

2. Tap Into Your Happiness.

Humans are social animals. The fact that we are designed to bond and interact with others is evident in the way our brains respond to human touch and human connection. Our brains release feel good chemicals (such as dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin) when we connect with others and the same goes for when we help others. These are  the chemicals that help prevent and fight against depression and stress. This is why our Team Kids Youth Council always serves with smiles.

3. Live Longer. Helping others helps our mental health and chemically helps reduce stress, so it’s no wonder it is connected to better longevity in several studies. Volunteerism is linked to a reduction in mortality rates. Serving your community will help you build a long life filled with well-being. As our Team Kids kids create a better today for others, they create a brighter tomorrow for themselves.

Need further inspiration? Follow our Team Kids Youth Council as they serve across America and help others in 14 U.S. cities in 14 days this summer!

To see a comprehensive study on the benefits of helping others, read bioethicist Stephen Post’s work.

How Youth Engagement Strengthens Community

How Youth Engagement Strengthens Community

Kids from Rolling Hills Elementary School raise their hands to volunteer as members of the Fullerton Police and Fire Departments visit the school during a Team Kids assembly. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Children come into the world with the compassion, creativity and energy to help make a difference, but they are often discouraged from community participation. When Team Kids delivers its kickoff assembly to an entire elementary school, we ask how many children have been told they are too small or too young to do something. It gives us chills to see all the hands raise. So, unfortunately, it is no surprise that extensive empirical research from the Search Institute reports that only 1 in 4 children perceive that they are valued by the adults in their community. Only 28% of children feel that they are given useful roles in their community.

Anyone who follows the news knows the perils facing our youth. Our youth struggle with bullying, gang violence, substance addiction, sex trafficking, depression and suicide. They are at risk of feeling disconnected, unsafe, undervalued and disempowered in their schools and communities.  Youth relationships with adults are often focused on behaviors to avoid instead of developing positive, personal relationships that increase connection, safety and empowerment. In short, these realities illustrate a disconnect between youth and adults in communities across America.

We have an opportunity to turn this around. We can imbue our children with the developmental assets, relationships and experiences they need to thrive today and in the future. Empowering children to fill valuable roles within their schools and community moves the needle in a variety of powerful ways.

When Julie Hudash started Team Kids in 2001, she was guided by her faith in our children’s abilities to tackle critical community needs. She connected children with local issues – the first of which involved mobilizing a community to help save the life of a young, sick boy – and caring adult mentors, including firefighters, police officers, educators and parents. It turns out, engaging youth as a community resource helps those most in need, creates solutions to serious problems, positively contributes to youth development and strengthens adult community stakeholders as mentors to youth. Overall, the community and its members become more resilient.

What we can doWe can allow children and teens to share their hopes and dreams for themselves and the world. We can ask them what they would like to see change in their community and what they’d like to do to help. We can listen to childServathon2015_59ren when they offer their opinions on their community or helping others. When they voice their concerns or desires, we can encourage them to take action. And we must always be mindful never to tell a child he or she is too young or too small to change the world. When we send this message, we disempower that particular child and rob the world of their inherent gifts. It’s time to mobilize our
young leaders today. If we wait to pass the reigns in the future, we are missing out on children’s action now.

For more inspiration: follow Team Kids Servathon: Tour Across America. Forty teen leaders will serve 14 cities across the U.S. in 14 days in honor of Team Kids’ 15th birthday and the 15-year anniversary of 9/11. Some of the projects will include landscaping a permanent housing community for the disabled and homeless, hosting a youth-led town hall meeting, rebuilding homes destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, bringing joy to sick children and children who lost their parents in active duty since 9/11, touring and serving at The Pentagon and presenting their service tour to the United Nations.  A documentary team will capture the tour and put together a film about kids’ voices and dreams and Team Kids will leave behind service kits in each city to continue to engage youth as community leaders.  
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Why Play Has Become Critical

Why Play Has Become Critical

Play is not just for fun. It’s downright critical for our kids’ development.

Imagine 2016_44Our children are getting lost in an adult-centered world of structure, measurement and competition. Their time is being taken and the youth-led activity of play is being left behind. Furthermore, there is a gap in access to safe play for children across neighborhoods. Play equipment and materials come with a price tag and outdoor play is harder to come by in certain communities.

There is a reason that young animals play. It develops the cognitive and physical skills necessary to survive in the wild. The same cause has been made for humans. When children play, they build prosocial skills, independence, and creativity, and even practice adult roles. Taking away our kids’ access to play time isn’t just robbing them of a childhood, it is hurting their development and thus their future.

3 Things to do to Support Children’s Play

Schedule youth-led play time.  If you are a parent, caregiver or teacher, you can ensure that unstructured play time is on the schedule. Play among children should be supported as well as independent play time for each child.

Advocate for playtime in preschool.  If you are a parent, teacher or youth advocate, get involved in discussions around education policy. Familiarize yourself with youth development and education research and the benefits of play to advocate to keep play time sacred in our early youth development space. Continue advocating for unstructured, youth-led play and activities beyond early child education.

Play with kids.  It is also important for adults to play with children. Whether you are a parent, caregiver or friend to a child, take the opportunity to join children in their world of play. It gives you an opportunity to support their play and observe and learn more about the child.  The byproduct is you will have fun reconnecting to this part of yourself.

Together we can support our youth’s development by advocating to keep play a part of their day!

Drumroll Please…

Drumroll Please…

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As 2015 Ends…
Team Kids’ 15th Birthday Begins!

To celebrate this milestone, please enjoy the following 15 reflections from students highlighting what they learned through participating in the Team Kids Challenge Program! We look forward to celebrating TK’s Birthday with you all year long!
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The Key to a Brighter Future for Our Kids

The Key to a Brighter Future for Our Kids

We Can’t Just LEAVE our Children a Brighter Future

Overwhelmed by the negative messages that permeate our world, adults often ask: how do we leave a better world for our children?

We can go deeper than this.

We should ask: HOW DO WE ENGAGE OUR CHILDREN TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD?

This is the question that drives Team Kids’s mission, our staff, board members and generous supporters. Rather than taking on the formidable task of correcting what is wrong in the world, we focus on our youngest leaders who have the energy, creativity and compassion to tackle such a challenge. We tell our kids they are the perfect fit for this big job. Then we provide them the opportunity to get to work.

If you tell a child that there is another child going to bed hungry, he will gladly hand over his Spongebob Mac ‘n Cheese. If you tell a child there is a cold, scared puppy in a nearby shelter waiting for a home, she will take the puppy her favorite blanket. If you tell a whole elementary school filled with children these things, they will make a difference in their community.

Last school year, 17,961 children were empowered through the Team Kids Challenge. Team Kids coaches led police officers, firefighters, educators, parents and other community members in mentoring elementary school students through their efforts to raise $85,216.66 in funds and in-kind resources for 22 charities, such as Olive Crest, CHOC, Illumination Foundation and local shelters and food pantries.

Statistics become crippling. 1 in 5 children in the U.S. go to bed hungry each night; 28,000 children in Orange County are homeless; 1 in 5 adults in the world cannot read. Team Kids is grateful for the adults working on these critical issues. Thanks to their efforts, we can mobilize our most renewable resource – our kids – to support their efforts. Our kids provide immediate support to local charities and assistance for our community members in need. They also build strength within themselves, protect themselves from antisocial and high-risk behavior* and further brighten our collective future.

We need to protect our children from disempowering messages (“you’re too young to help”) and nourish the innate compassion that dwells within them by offering them meaningful roles in our communities. Because we do not need to just leave our children a brighter future; we need to engage them in creating it.

*Based on the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Asset research

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The Force is Strong With our TK Kids!

The Force is Strong With our TK Kids!

STUFF-A-BUS WITH TOYS!

Team Kids students from Meadow Park, Culverdale, Springbrook and College Park Elementary joined forces with ABC7 and Orange County Fire Authority to stuff the TK Bus with toys as part of the Annual Spark of Love Toy Drive!  Click the picture below to see the TK crew on Good Morning America! 

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The Team Kids spirit even melted the hearts of Storm Troopers, who snuggled teddy bears and gave thanks to our Team KIDS for their generous spirit! Our bus was stuffed with  2000+ toys, which helped bring smiles to many of the 1 in 5 children who live below the poverty line in Orange, Ventura, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. 

It’s your turn!  YOU are invited to Get on the Bus with Team Kids, alongside educators, police, fire fighters and our generous philanthropic partners, as we collectively empower our kids to create a better future for all! 

Click the DONATE button below to help us help kids to help others!

 

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Spreading Hope to Those Who Need it Most

Spreading Hope to Those Who Need it Most

9th Annual Shop with a Cop Event

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Team Kids facilitates a great deal of inspirational moments throughout the year as we empower our youngest leaders to change the world, but our annual Shop With a Cop is hard to rival.

The children from the domestic violence shelters, Human Options and The Second Step, and their courageous mothers have been through heartbreaking challenges. Our caring partners at Irvine Police Department and The City of Irvine recognize this and for the 9th consecutive year helped us spread the true spirit of the holiday season to these families.

At our 9th Annual Shop with a Cop, we witnessed our Irvine police officers shop for the kids in reindeer antlers. Then they entered the room with bags stuffed with toys for the kids. (Video link here for you to see). The kids’ eyes lit up and the excitement they experienced was infectious. But the truly remarkable moments of the night were the tears of joy in the mothers’ eyes and the looks of adoration the kids gave to their officers as they played together. As the evening winded down, every table was filled with a police officer and a mother engaging in heartfelt conversation, genuinely connecting with each other in the most elegant way. Team Kids’ Shop With a Cop is all about connection: the connection to each other, the connection to community, and the universal human connection to hope.

“This has truly just touched and warmed my heart. I feel important and loved. It has also taken away the stress of not being able to provide this type of Christmas on my own.”

 

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“If There’s a Shooter at My School…”

“If There’s a Shooter at My School…”

“If there’s a shooter at my school, my friends and I are coming to your house!”

Alex, one of our incredible Team Kids leaders, recently told me this. I live across from his school, and previously showed him how to get into our house in an emergency. I imagined this emergency scenario to be an earthquake or his parents’ sudden inability to pick him up, not an active shooter on his campus. This is a very loved young man, who lives in and attends school in, one of the safest cities in America.

It breaks my heart that this plan is in the forefront of Alex’s mind. This fear can be crippling for all of us, but none more than for our children. Feeling safe is a key factor in learning and healthy development. Now with recent attacks, along with the massive LAUSD closing in the news, our children’s fears are intensified. We need to do everything we can to help our kids feel safe in a world that fear is trying to conquer.

The Team Kids Challenge surrounds elementary school students with Team Kids coaches, educators, parents, police officers and firefighters as mentors to support the children’s efforts in making a difference in their community. These kids are shown that there are caring adults in their community watching out for their well-being and that their schools are the place where compassion gets put into action.

Take time to let your children know about all the caring people in their school and community. This is perhaps one of the best things we can show our children right now. Because stealing our children’s sense of safety is undoubtedly one of the most serious threats to our great country.

 

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How Team Kids is Replacing Fear with Hope

How Team Kids is Replacing Fear with Hope

Human beings, no matter their faith, have gifts to put into action to create change. 

The American Muslim community has recently experienced a heightened sense of concern. While thoughts and prayers are nice, action is needed. That is why I called my colleague and friend Dina Eletreby, who is the principal at New Horizon Elementary School, which provides Muslim-based education. After a warm embrace, coffee and shared concerns, we grabbed our calendars and scheduled a Team Kids Challenge. 

Our team is excited to return to New Horizon Elementary School and empower the children in our local Muslim community alongside our partners from Irvine Police Department and Orange County Fire Authority. Not just because the beautiful students at New Horizons need to know how much our community values them, but mostly because they have so much to give back as compassionate leaders. The students will be accepting the challenge to address literacy, hunger and animal welfare.  Dina remarked, “By working together to do good, Team Kids and the students of New Horizon provide a model for healing and for renewing our hope in the future.”

We can all find opportunities to replace fear and hate with security and love. If you know someone in a group being marginalized, reach out to let them know they matter and that you care about them. Our community is built on mutual respect and admiration for our cultural differences. Now more than ever, I hope the students from New Horizon and everywhere feel love and appreciation. Human beings, no matter their faith, have gifts to put into action to create change. 

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Today in Orange County, most of the work being done in health and human services focuses, appropriately, on the immediate needs of the disadvantaged. Team Kids takes a different approach, directing their energies toward our youth, teaching them the value and power of working together to solve community issues. In so doing, they are developing the philanthropists of the future and creating systematic change in our community.”

OC United Way, CEO Max Gardner

Team Kids is addressing critical child and community needs today, while also building our next generation of problem solvers.”

Dan Lubeck, Team Kids Board Member

I became a Founding Team Kids Board Member in 2004, after witnessing the leadership and compassion being developed in the students participating in the Team Kids Challenge Program. Team Kids engenders a culture where it is everyone’s right, regardless of age, to be a powerful agent for change.”

Bethany LaFlam, Team Kids Board Member

Team Kids, to me, is an antidote to entitlement and one great way to create the responsible citizens we all want as future leaders.”

Mike Cupps, Team Kids Board Member; Private Investor

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