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.

CultivATE Teaches Us How to Grow Healthy Food

CultivATE Teaches Us How to Grow Healthy Food

Today, Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet students can take a class that teachers them to grow vegetables with an aquaponics system, and learn how to cook the vegetables they grow too. This opportunity was made possible thanks to CultivATE, the school’s 2013 Aspen Challenge team. Students secured funding to build a large facility on their campus, and worked with the school to incorporate the system’s operational tasks into curriculum. They sought support from LA City Council in order to bring their ideas to others across the city, garnering attention for the Los Angeles Times. Today, students from the team are continuing their aquaponics interests and pursuing a business idea to reimagine community development through aquaponics.

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Organize Change Engage Act Now

Organize Change Engage Act Now

Downtown Magnets High School is in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Their team, O.C.E.A.N. Los Angeles (Organize Change Engage Act Now Los Angeles), capitalized on the diverse backgrounds of its students as they addressed a challenge issued by renowned oceanographer David Gallo. The team conceived of a plan to bring the ocean back to the city by uniting inner-city residents in a multilingual promotional campaign. They distributed cloth grocery bags to local businesses, went into classrooms to teach younger students about ocean health, and grew a massive social media campaign, gaining over a thousand followers on Facebook in just a few short days. The team played on LA’s prominent movie industry by creating informational marketing tools that mimicked the industry’s films. Today, O.C.E.A.N. Los Angeles continues its good work with new students from DT Magnets.

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