DCPS partners with pastors to combat dangerous trend

by: Lorena Incl\u00E1n Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A trend sweeping social media could be putting your child's life in danger. The trend is disturbing and many young people are doing it just because it's popular.

They're called challenges. One is called the fire challenge where young people pour accelerants on their bodies and literally light themselves on fire. Another is the pass out challenge where you hold your breath as long as you can until you pass out, and others are getting involved in the knockout challenge, where random strangers are knocked out cold.

Several teens who form part of the youth group at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church gathered along with their pastors and Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti to talk about the so-called challenges Tuesday.

"I think it's stupid," said Joshua McKissick. "Don't do it, it's not worth it," said Destiny Jones.

 A search for #passoutchallenge on Instragram turned up more than 2,000 posts and more than 3,000 for the fire challenge.

It's become so popular local spiritual leaders like Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. and youth pastor Anthony O'Neal have partnered with Duval County Public Schools to put a stop to the dangerous trend.  

"What we are seeing with these challenges is that something has gone awry, something is wrong and that as a school system as a superintendent I can't just sit on the sideline," said Vitti.

Vitti said DCPS is opening its doors to more pastors in order to expand the program called iPraise. According to leaders, the pastors will serve as an extra resource on school campuses to help students not feel pressured to participate in the challenges.

"We are going to gather over a hundred something youth pastors and each youth pastor is going to have a specific school," said O'Neal.

McKissick said in order to get to the root of the problem, everyone in the community needs to get involved.

"If we don't begin to pour into our young people so that they develop the character and the integrity, the productivity and the intellectual capacity to go to the next level of life and be productive in life, we are going to lose a generation," said McKissick.

Next Friday, an event at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church is expected to attract about 4,000 young people. Celebrities Flex Alexander and GooGoo Atkins will be sharing positive messages with the students. A short film about the challenges will also be shown. This fall, seminars about the challenges will be held in schools.