Big Problems? These Students Have Solutions

May 1, 2024  • John Peabody

If you’re in need of a real injection of optimism about the future, look to a group of high school students, specifically those coming together to develop solutions to some of the most pressing issues of today. This is exactly what we saw recently at Aspen Challenge in Brooklyn. 

Aspen Challenge Brooklyn 2024.

Launched by the Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation in 2012, the Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to address critical issues and become leaders in their communities. In Brooklyn, 150+ students’ Aspen Challenge journeys began in February with a day of inspiration and engagement from cross-sector leaders. During the Opening Forum, these leaders challenged Brooklyn students to create solutions to issues ranging from hate crime prevention to the city’s rat infestation problem and mental health support. 

In Brooklyn, teams from 20 high schools presented their concepts to the judges in a room that can only be described as energetic. A DJ kept a playlist cranking throughout the day as the kids took to the stage to share their well-rehearsed and well-researched presentations. Applause regularly broke out as did impromptu dance routines. Following the presentations, the teams moved downstairs to showcase their solutions and judges deliberated. 

The grand prize winner, Multicultural High School, earned an all-expense paid trip to present at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Their project, “Immigr8,” took on developing ways to honor the diversity of their majority-immigrant school community and to access the rights and opportunities available to them as residents of New York City through hosting events and creating dedicated spaces for students and their families. 

Aspen Challenge Brooklyn 2024.

Multicultural High School at Aspen Challenge Brooklyn.

Second place was awarded to Brooklyn Technical High School whose project, “Eraticators,” addressed New York’s growing rat problem in their home community of Fort Greene by facilitating workshops designed to change neighbors’ attitudes about waste management and the role that it plays in rodent mitigation.

Brooklyn Technical High School at Aspen Challenge.

Third place was awarded to Williamsburg Preparatory High School whose project, “Living Labs,” equipped elementary school students with knowledge and resources to grow their own food in the event of a climate emergency by using hydroponics.

Williamsburg Preparatory High School at Aspen Challenge Brooklyn.

Highlighting three solutions from a room of dozens of great ideas doesn’t do the competition and the work of these inspiring students justice. To learn more, follow @aspen_challenge on Instagram and visit