Positive, Youth-Led Change in Brooklyn and San Diego

Coast to coast – from Brooklyn to San Diego – young people are hard at work developing their teams’ responses and creating innovative Solutions following the recent Aspen Challenge: Challenge Forums. In February, 20 high school teams in each city decided to take on the Challenge and tackle pressing issues in their own communities through the fresh lens of youth perspective.

Before each season of the Aspen Challenge, school district partners collaborate with the program to identify the most critical issues facing their students and communities. These issues are often complex, and complicated, requiring a creative approach to develop solutions in the face of adversity. Yet, with this Challenge comes incredible opportunity. Time and time again Aspen Challenge participants rise to the occasion, bringing new energy and readiness to the table, and a chance to make their voices heard.

“Teaching young people to think critically and with empathy, and make change, is what we need so critically in the world right now,” Brooklyn North High Schools Superintendent Janice Ross said while building the momentum and sparking curiosity of hundreds of young people at the Brooklyn Challenge Forum. Brooklyn’s critical thinkers had the opportunity to choose from Challenges related to rat mitigation, mental health, human rights, hate crimes, and climate.

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Lamont Jackson kicked off the San Diego event, highlighting the importance of collective success and noting the impact each individual can make: “Transformational leadership is less about the leader, and more about the follower.” With this mindset, San Diego students were asked to focus on Challenge topics related to academic excellence, environment, immigration, mental health, and homelessness.

With their respective Challenges in focus, participants in both cities are now fully immersed in the hard work ahead. In this next phase, educators are ready to support their student-led teams, as they navigate the collaborative process, embracing both successes and setbacks along the way. Teams will come together again in a few weeks to present their Solutions on stage at the Aspen Challenge: Solutions Showcase scheduled for April 18  in Brooklyn and May 1 in San Diego. Winning teams will earn the opportunity to present their Solutions at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, showcasing the future is indeed in very capable hands.