Around the Institute

Letter from Youth & Engagement Programs

August 16, 2017  • Youth Leadership Programs

Greetings and welcome to Youth & Engagement Programs’ first newsletter!  Much has changed since we announced the creation of the newest division of the Aspen Institute in April 2015 and since we started our work in October 2015.  What remains clear, however, is the importance and urgent need for our work — to empower thoughtful, socially conscious, and diverse young people to address the critical issues of the day. Our team is committed to developing and nurturing generations of young people who prioritize the local, regional, national, and global needs of our communities over personal interests.

Our work will be effective only if we merge philosophical reflections with tangible experiences: the best routes to success will gather young people to solve real-world problems together — young people bringing multiple and different ideas based upon their diverse backgrounds and experiences. By working to find collective solutions, understanding their roles, and assessing the impact of their work, young people touched by Youth & Engagement Programs will develop their capacities, including voice, agency, and leadership.

Each of our programs endeavors to mix the ideal with the practical — the Aspen Challenge with its time-based community challenges to high school students; Hurst Great Ideas Student Seminars and Teen Socrates with their foundation upon reflections on big ideas, historical lessons, and discourse for young people to understand themselves and other participants before developing personal actions; AspenX combining virtual, experiential, and design work revolving around an important issue of our time such as race & society; the Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship interweaving lessons from values-based leadership and with the development of community-focused social ventures; and, other exciting new ideas that we look forward to sharing over the next few months.

We are fortunate to have a committed, curious, and collaborative team who embody the operating values of the division – we argue joyfully; we are equals; we boldly seek excellence to transform society; we act with graciousness and gratitude in all we do – and ensure that we maintain our operating integrity and live these values each day.  It’s not easy, but maintaining these high standards builds a common bond to amplify our energy. This energy will help us to counter the negative narrative of the day.

We can help young people take their responsibilities seriously and impact others.  Many already do.

We can get adults to trust and empower young people to own the direction of their communities.  We see examples everywhere.

We can bridge divides across race, socio-economics, geography, and age in pursuit of the good society.  Role models exist.

We have embarked on this journey and hope that you will join us — share your ideas & experiences, challenge us, learn with us, and celebrate the work and its outcomes. Thank you!