In April, students from Brooklyn North Public High Schools showcased their creativity, tenacity, collaboration, perseverance, and civic leadership during the eight weeks of the Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn competition. Three of 20 participating teams were named winners of the Aspen Challenge for their bold and disruptive solutions. Those teams represented students from Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School, East Williamsburg Scholars Academy, and Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School.
Below are details about those winning solutions, the exciting young leaders who participated, and the impactful, sustainable change they’re advocating for in their community.
Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School Solution: CHCP Nourishes
Challenge: Improve access to nutritious food in the community by connecting with resources and partners that can help provide healthier food options.
Solution: In order to meet the nutritional needs of all families in the Cypress Hills community, students partnered with local organizations to create the CHCP Nourishes Market, a market that sells fresh, healthy foods to community members. Students welcomed an in-person nutritionist to the CHCP Nourishes Market to provide information to customers about how they can incorporate healthy, nutritious foods into their daily diets, and also created a digital cookbook for community members. The students worked with partners including the River Fund, Seeds in The Middle, and Legacy to gain volunteer experience in a food pantry and to source fresh produce and food staples for the market.
Over the eight weeks of the challenge, students developed this strategy, researched the challenge of bringing healthier food options to their community, built local partnerships, and created resources that will continue to inform and serve their communities. Students used social media, email, personal calls, and other outreach methods to reach members of the community, ultimately serving 290 community members through CHCP Nourishes.
Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School
Challenge: Design a program that educates students on multiple pathways to post-secondary success and promotes the exploration of those pathways as opportunities towards economic mobility.
Solution: Students created the Project: B.L.A.C.K. initiative, which connects students to more post-secondary opportunities and resources. Project B.L.A.C.K. stands for “Building Legacy And Community Kinship,” and students targeted the NYC Department of Education school system by using their own school as an example. After surveying students in their community on their future plans, they leveraged that data to reach out to community partners, including Gransettlement, Melanated Moves, “It Takes a Village,” The Aspen Institute, “CapitalAEvents,” The Black School, and Protect the East. They then hosted a Post-Secondary Fair for community members to learn about paths forward and get matched with a partner for mentorship.
The students signed up 121 of their peers to be paired with 15 partners for mentorship and guidance, and they have received a pledge from these partners to donate $5,000 annually to keep this solution going in the BCAM community. By creating a physical hub via the Post-Secondary Fair, this team of students provided their peers with the opportunity to connect and explore post-secondary pathways in real time.
East Williamsburg Scholars Academy
Challenge: Find a solution to promote conversations about healthy relationships in the community.
Solution: Toxicity in the City, the student team who put forward this solution, took a multi-pronged approach to opening up conversation and building awareness about toxic behavior in relationships. First, students conducted a survey on teen dating violence, using that data to hone in on areas for building awareness and growth. With partners including Interborough Developmental & Consultation Center, Xin Yi Printing, I Will Graduate Youth Development Program, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Spotify, Family In The City, My Brother’s Keeper/My Sister’s Keeper, Northwell Health, Center for Anti-Violence Education, and RIMOWA, students developed a text hotline for youth that would send daily motivational messages about healthy relationships.
The students also started peer groups such as Boys Group Chat and held events including a trivia night, where they discussed topics such as toxic traits in media and toxic relationships. They held workshops around intimate violence awareness with community leaders and experts, and spread awareness about workplace toxicity and how to resolve and overcome toxicity challenges outside of school. They even hosted a visit with the local police precinct to discuss intimate partner violence.
Aspen Challenge New Orleans
At another event in New Orleans, 19 Orleans Parish high school teams competed in five challenge topic areas, ranging from mental health and climate change to gun violence. Some examples of the solutions include:
Travis Hill School
Challenge: Educate adults on the mental health needs of incarcerated youth in New Orleans.
Solution: Students created The Voices Behind the Walls, an organization that hosts biweekly family counseling sessions for families of incarcerated youth. These sessions are designed to equip the families with the knowledge and skills to adequately respond to children’s needs, support positive decision-making, and help their children fulfill their potential.
Sarah T. Reed High School
Challenge: Increase awareness of the climate impact of Louisiana’s consumer waste.
Solution: Students formed RE2ED, which married the act of recycling and the draw of social media. They turned recycling bins into “Learning Hubs” where community members could recycle their plastic while learning about the value of recycling and the danger of allowing consumer waste to pollute the planet.
In Brooklyn and New Orleans, all of these student teams demonstrated an important quality for solving community challenges: leadership. Whether it was building critical partnerships with local organizations to stock a local market or bringing together different experts to discuss intimate partner violence, these student teams demonstrated the critical leadership skills of thinking creatively and critically and bringing people together from across their communities for the greater good. Each of these students showcased the power they hold to positively impact their communities, and will carry the skills they gained throughout the Aspen Challenge into the next chapter in their lives—wherever life may take them.