Dallas Independent School District and School District of Philadelphia Students Present Solutions to Immigration Crisis, School-to-Prison Pipeline, and Equitable Development at Aspen Ideas Festival

It’s been almost five months since high school students from Dallas and Philadelphia heard challenges and began working to positively impact their communities. In that time, the more than 300 students who accepted the Aspen Challenge have demonstrated the tenacity, leadership, and optimism necessary to be champions of change in and around their school and home communities and beyond. For 24 Dallas Independent School District and seven School District of Philadelphia students, that hard work earned them trips to the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival.

SOLUTION USING ART TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE AWARDED TOP PRIZE IN ASPEN CHALLENGE PHILADELPHIA COMPEPTION

Students from the School District of Philadelphia’s John Bartram High School are headed to this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival after claiming first place in the Aspen Challenge: Philadelphia competition at Drexel University on April 11. A team comprised of eight students and two educator-coaches came up with a winning solution to Mural Arts Philadelphia executive director Jane Golden’s challenge to use art to raise awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline and promote restorative justice and education. It was enough to earn them all-expense paid trips to present their solution at the Aspen Institute’s annual flagship gathering of global leaders, influencers, and entrepreneurs in Aspen, CO. George Washington and Northeast high schools placed second and third, respectively.

BEGIN WITH BEAUTY

BEGIN WITH BEAUTY

The power of art is such that, when approached strategically, it can break through or transcend seemingly steadfast barriers to transform lives and bring about social reform. So, I asked these students: How do we consider an artistic approach to the school-to-prison pipeline? How could a creative campaign help to broker change?

TEAMS FOSTERING EMPATHY AND SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRANTS AND TACKLING MOBILITY SOLUTIONS TO INCREASE COMMUNITY COHESION AND PROMOTE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT WIN THE DAY IN DALLAS

High school students from Dallas Independent School District’s (Dallas ISD) Emmett J. Conrad, Moisés E. Molina, and Sunset High Schools are headed to this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival after claiming top prizes in the Aspen Challenge: Dallas Competition at Dallas’ Union Station on March 27. Twenty-four students and six educator-coaches earned all-expense paid trips and invitations to present their solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues at the Aspen Institute’s annual, flagship gathering of global leaders, influencers, and entrepreneurs in Aspen, CO.

2017 Aspen Challenge Teams Present at the Aspen Ideas Festival

2017 Aspen Challenge Teams Present at the Aspen Ideas Festival

24 School District of Philadelphia and eight Chicago Public Schools students embraced the “mind, body, and spirit” foundations of Aspen, CO, hiking, rafting and attending the Aspen Ideas Festival before presenting their respective solutions to police-community relations, food access, and healthy living for an audience of global leaders, policy makers, and entrepreneurs on the Ideas Festival stage.

In the Name of Real Community Change: Aspen Challenge Teams Turn Competition Into Collaboration

In the Name of Real Community Change: Aspen Challenge Teams Turn Competition Into Collaboration

Before the Aspen Challenge team from Wendell Phillips Academy High School placed their focus solely on their trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival, they joined five other Aspen Challenge teams for a brainstorming session who, like them, chose to tackle one of the most talked about and troublesome problems that Chicagoans face: violence prevention and police-community relations. Nearly 30 employees of the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department (CPD), from precincts across the city and the neighborhoods represented by each school in attendance, met with students to explore ways to collaborate and continue students’ work to create a culture of peace in Chicago.

Solution for Improving Trust Among Chicago Police and Teens Awarded First Place in Competition

A team of inspiring high school students from Wendell Phillips Academy High School claimed the top prize during the Aspen Challenge competition in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry. Judges awarded the winning team an all-expenses-paid opportunity to attend and present at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, an acclaimed gathering of global leaders, policymakers and entrepreneurs taking place in Colorado in June. Al Raby School for Community and Environment and Northside College Prep High School placed second and third, respectively.

Solutions for Healthy Living and Food Waste Reduction Win the Challenge in Philadelphia

Three groups of inspiring students from Northeast High School, Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter High School, and George Washington High School claimed the top prizes during the Aspen Challenge competition in Philadelphia on March 29 at Ballroom at the Ben. Judges awarded the winning teams an all-expenses-paid opportunity to attend and present at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, an acclaimed gathering of global leaders, policymakers and entrepreneurs taking place in Colorado in June.

Spreading Sprouts

Spreading Sprouts

Elementary school students across the San Fernando Valley are growing vegetables in gardens at their school and learning all about the principles of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) in the process.

Get Fresh on Franklin

Get Fresh on Franklin

This fall, in honor of Thanksgiving, Fresh on Franklin, the Aspen Challenge team from George Westinghouse College Prep in Chicago, partnered with Breakthrough Urban Ministries, an organization committed to serving those in poverty by running homeless shelters (serving 1,000 adults and 24,000 nights year), offering youth development programs and mentorships, offering counseling service to those who are homeless, and distributing groceries to those in need (10,000 bags a year!). 

MoneyLYFE Tells the Story of Valuable "Lyfe Decisions" in Graphic Novel

MoneyLYFE Tells the Story of Valuable "Lyfe Decisions" in Graphic Novel

MoneLYFE Lindlom Math and Science Academy Chicago Public Schools Aspen Challenge    Lindblom Math and Science Academy's 2016 Aspen Challenge Team, MoneyLYFE (Leading Youth in Financial Education) strives to teach youth the impact that effective financial mindsets can have on their lives. 

Oh! What It Means to See the Stars!

Oh! What It Means to See the Stars!

Roald Amundsen High School’s team Starry Chicago designed a program that educates the community about the importance of preserving the night sky and that advocates for dark-sky friendly policies in order to mitigate the harmful effects of light pollution.

ASPEN CHALLENGE WINNERS SHOW US PROBLEM-SOLVING IS NOT JUST FOR ADULTS

ASPEN CHALLENGE WINNERS SHOW US PROBLEM-SOLVING IS NOT JUST FOR ADULTS

ASPEN CHALLENGE WINNERS SHOW US PROBLEM-SOLVING IS NOT JUST FOR ADULTS

Scarlett Sinay is a senior at Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, California. She was a communications intern during the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO. Below, Sinay explains how initiatives like the Aspen Challenge — a platform and tool for young people to design solutions to critical issues — teach teenagers to think beyond their own lives and instead focus on their potential impact on society.

Teenagers don’t get enough credit. We have a lot on our plates. High school can become a highly stressful environment, due to factors such as the college admissions process and the idea of our looming independence ahead. We often find ourselves obsessing over the qualities that we lack, (what can’t be written on an application or boasted about in an essay), rather than the possibilities of what we can offer. Some high schoolers, however, can be found thinking about not just themselves, but also others, and solving the problems that their communities face, such as the winners of this year’s Aspen Challenge. These are the very teenagers that deserve more credit, and they give me copious amounts of hope for the trajectory of our generation.

The students were challenged to come up with solutions to relevant and pervasive issues, such as combating violence and segregation within their schools by promoting inclusivity and using methods that appeal to everyone, decreasing the disastrous effects of California’s drought, or fighting for better food options for their schools and cities.

Students from Washington Metropolitan School of Washington, DC, created an initiative using dialogue, media, and the arts to teach youth to avoid violence. George Washington High School in Denver, CO, allowed students to use literature, music, and art to express their feelings about identity and race.

Showing a different side of Washington, DC, than is usually witnessed in the media, The SEED School created an initiative to make healthy food more accessible to their community, while Frank W. Ballou Senior High School introduced a highly necessary peer-mediation program to benefit their peers. The Los Angeles, CA, team from Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet High School showcased their strategies to fight the drought plaguing the area, as well as a legislative proposal for water-use schedules.

Witnessing the winners present these brilliant ideas, I understood why the Aspen Challenge participants are so well respected around the Aspen Institute. They personify the idea that today’s youth can grapple with extraordinarily difficult questions that present no clear answer, think in a way that surpasses themselves and their personal progress, and improves the lives of their peers, neighbors, and fellow humans.

The students who participated in and won the Aspen Challenge serve as proof that by working with each other and refusing to accept the wrong that we see around us, teenagers are just as capable as adults at solving world issues. Because the truth is, yes, us high schoolers should prioritize schoolwork and standardized testing; we know that. But to limit this pivotal epoch in our lives to only focus on ourselves and how we appear on a sheet of paper is, frankly, a complete waste of valuable time.

An Aspen Challenge winner and George Washington High School student named Sara Hill told me that her Challenge experience taught her to “balance the opinions of others with your own,” a skill that most of us don’t possess, but should. And with that, in the spirit of the Aspen Ideas Festival, I might have a big idea: high school could be the perfect place to encourage problem solving. It certainly worked for the winners of the Aspen Challenge. There is absolutely no age requirement for innovation, and who better to take on the world’s problems than those who will lead in years to come.