Dallas Independent School District students have once again earned the opportunity to present at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival. Knights MPowering, the team from Justin F. Kimball High School, claimed first place at the Aspen Challenge Dallas competition at the Briscoe Center on March 28th for their plan to empower students to advocate for their education in the face of shortages of qualified teachers, and to play a role in combating teacher turnover. This innovative solution answers Citizen University founder and CEO Eric Liu’s challenge to organize young people to practice civic power, and it wins the team an all-expense paid trip to present at the Aspen Institute’s annual flagship gathering of global leaders, influencers, and entrepreneurs in Aspen, CO.
“This experience has taught me that there’s people out there that actually care about what we’re doing, they want us to change the world they don’t care that we’re teenagers they want to hear our opinion and our voice.”
-Bryan Baldomero, Bryan Adams High School senior
The second-place award went to the Woodrow Wilson High School team, which is providing hygiene products to women facing homelessness in order to combat health inequity. Skyline High School took third place with the creation of a resource fair for minority and immigrant community members.
“The experience has taught me a lot about leadership…It gave me a lot of confidence to see what young people can accomplish. I didn’t believe in myself at all before this. Seeing that when you come together with other people, you can make a change. Compassion and working hard really does make a difference.”
-Ellie Overman, Woodrow Wilson High School senior
Launched by the Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation in 2012 and implemented in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District in 2018 and 2019, the Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to address critical issues and become leaders in their communities. In Dallas, 150 students’ Aspen Challenge journey began in February with a day of inspiration and engagement from cross-sector leaders. During the Opening Forum, these local and national leaders challenged Dallas students to become leaders in their own community. Teams representing 19 schools across the city accepted one of the five presented challenges, sparking an eight-week journey during which each team designed solutions that would better their community.
“You can have a million ideas but you don’t necessarily know how to implement them. The Aspen Challenge helped me understand how change happens and how to organize it.”
-Ginny Mendez, Sunset High School junior
Additional awards were presented to teams from Emmett J. Conrad High School for People’s Choice, North Dallas High School for Resilience, David W. Carter High School for Originality, and Bryan Adams High School for Collaboration. Reflecting on the experience, North Dallas High School junior Octavia Legans , North Dallas stated that even if people have differences, “if you’re passionate about something, you can come together and make change for the future.
Currently in its seventh year, the Aspen Challenge has previously partnered with the Los Angeles Unified Schools District, Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and the School District of Philadelphia. In addition to Dallas, the Aspen Challenge is also partnering with Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky this year.