COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Team Kids is worth its weight in gold.
Team Kids founder Julie Hudash explains why a positive influence at a young age is so important.
"Our kids start on a path of purpose. And it takes so much less effort and capacity to support young people in their dreams to do great things, than the capacity it takes to have a child exit a gang or stop doing drugs."
The nonprofit hopes to empower young people by changing the way they see themselves, and in the process help them make better choices at school and in life.
"I think I just want to make a difference in the world and knowing that it's helping people is a really good thing for me," explains Dahlia, a sixth grader at William Jefferson Clinton Elementary School in Compton.
Her classmate Xochitl is also a Team Kids member and agrees, "I know that I'm helping people in need and just imagining their smile it helps me feel better."
The Team Kids Challenge is a five-week youth leadership program that meets once a week during lunch with a coach and a public safety representative.
But it's the kids, often 5th and 6th graders, who decide how to unite their school to help someone else and in the process strengthen their connections to peers, and also help overcome childhood experiences that might have them doubt themselves.
Clinton Elementary principal Susana Miranda knows how Team Kids helps her students.
"With Team Kids it gives them the opportunity to see outside of themselves and see that the little things that they can do really do have a big impact. Not only on their community but it can have a big impact on their world."
Dr. Ikoko Mikle, principal at Dickison Elementary, also sees growth in her young students.
"I see a shift in mindset. More compassion towards their peers and definitely an improvement in leadership skills and problem-solving skills."
"After they get to know us over the duration of the program, during the carnival we get to play with them and see the fruits of their efforts at the end basically and they get to really get to know us on a level that you can't just reach by occasional class presentations and saying hi," explains William Wu, the chief of the Compton Unified School District Police Department.
Whether raising money for kids from war-torn Ukraine at University Park Elementary in Irvine, or having now spread across all 22 Compton Unified School District elementary schools raising money for various charities, Team Kids shows that if you expect a lot from a child you shouldn't be surprised when they give you just that.
Hudash explains, "It's a complete paradigm shift. It's letting kids take the lead. It's adults learning to be better police officers and teachers because of witnessing the kids when they're in charge, working together to make a difference in their community."