Northeast High School’s team Alpas is building bridges between existing resources and those in need by hosting workshops, utilizing social media, and partnering with community organizations.
“The Aspen Challenge is truly an opportunity for young people to encourage and inspire each other, and the adults around them, to solve critical issues facing their communities,” said School District of Philadelphia superintendent Dr. William R. Hite. “Thanks to the experience of participating in the Aspen Challenge and the dedication of their teachers and coaches, our students are uniquely positioned to lead fundamental change around issues like climate change, the school-to-prison pipeline, and poverty.”
One Bright Ray Community High School junior Rayah Abdul-Malik, whose team is Slam Dunk Junk, learned that teenagers can in fact impact their communities in positive ways. “I’ve never seen so many people who want to help the world and help our communities,” said Abdul-Malik. “Some teenagers really do want to make a change in this world.”
“It was really inspiring see other people get involved in our project,” added Franklin Learning Center freshman and Future Finance team member Brandon Santos.
Said West Philadelphia High School junior and T.E.A.C.H. (Teens Educating Against Cyber Hate) team member Madelaine Akinyemi: “Even though we’re teenagers, we can bring huge change to the world. We don’t have to wait for adults to tell us what to do; we can do it on our own.”
Additional awards including People’s Choice, Best Exhibit, Team Spirit, and Impact were presented to Northeast High School’s team Alpas, Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School’s team wholeheARTed, Frankford High School’s team Pioneers 4 Poverty, and Lankenau High School’s team Carbon Busters, respectively.
“Being trusted with the planning implementation, execution, and sustainability of a service project with a platform like that of the Aspen Institute has given these students a confidence and ambition that is contagious,” said John Bartram High School/Give Us Our Crowns coach Erin Stewart.
Said coach Curtis Davis, a teacher at Mastery Charter School: Simon Gratz Campus and coach of team P.A.U.S.E. (Poverty and Unemployment Stopped Through Education): “The value of the Aspen Challenge for the community and the students is beyond words.” A form of project-based learning that is a departure from many school curricula, Davis added that throughout the process, “students are handling statistics, writing reports, gathering information and seeing what did not work and what did, and using a scientific approach to create change.”
“The Aspen Challenge represents promise and perpetuity,” continued Stewart. “It is a counter to the naysayers that think millennials are self-centered and unaware. It is undeniable evidence that the formula for the future that this city and country has always relied on is still true – the youth are the hope of the future.”
Currently in its sixth 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 Dallas Independent School District.