MERIDIAN -- Ten student athletes at Meridian High School are on a mission to change the learning environment at local schools.
The students are acting as ambassadors through Stand-Up America. The group encourages everyone to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. All of the students involved strive to be positive role models. That includes Talon Kreft, a three-sport athlete and a sophomore at Meridian High.
We're trying to change the climate in our school in a positive way, Kreft said of the group.
Students are learning leadership and communication skills from experienced speaker and community advocate Derrick Boles.
It's providing hope, said Boles, who's working with this specific group of students to try and impact area youth.
We're five male athletes, five female athletes at the school that are recognized to have some sort of influence, said Meridian High School junior Hunter Graefe.
High school students face a lot of challenges including bullying and peer pressure. The Stand-Up America ambassadors told us it can be hard to fight back.
The fear of stepping up or standing out, you know. Standing up for something, added Graefe.
However, thanks to Boles, the students are working to change that fear into courage. And they've chosen a specific topic to focus on this year: teen suicide.
You hear about bullying and drinking and driving a lot lately, but you never hear about teen suicide, said Whitney King, a cheerleader at Meridian High School.
The ten Stand-Up America student ambassadors even made a PSA addressing the topic. They want to create a safe space for students to talk about their problems.
There's also a social media movement. Students are using the hashtag #Iwillstandupnow on Facebook and Twitter to keep the conversation going.
Right now, the students are in the running to win a $25,000 grant from State Farm. They've been spreading the word about their cause, and voting for weeks.
It's giving power back to the youth, said Graefe about the Stand-Up America mission.
If they win, students plan to use the money to start a leadership conference for teens in the Treasure Valley.
I think a lot of people talk about young people and say our future is bleak, said Boles. This provides inspiration. This shows that young people not only care, but they're willing to put action to their words.
Students agree, adding that Stand-Up America has given them the courage to be the change they hope to see in others. It's a powerful movement, empowering local teens to look out for each other.
Voting ends May 16. Groups who finish in the top 40 will each win a $25,000 grant. To learn more about Stand-Up America and to vote for the group using your Facebook page, click here.