Civic Action

No Challenge No Change: Watch Dallas High School Students Accept the Aspen Challenge

February 8, 2019  • Samantha Garzillo

For the second year, Dallas Independent School District students are taking charge as leaders and changemakers. At Fair Park’s Briscoe Center, over 150 high schoolers came together to hear challenges to issues impacting their local and national community from cross-sector leaders at the Aspen Challenge: Dallas Opening Forum. “I want to make a difference in the world,” says South Oak Cliff High School sophomore T’Arron Cooper, and he sees the Aspen Challenge as a too-rare opportunity that young people are given the chance to do just that.

Each year, the Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to design solutions to address critical issues. Dallas students will be taking on issues as far-ranging and timely as immigration, physical and mental health, civil discourse, and the environment. They heard from inspirational speakers like Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield, Citizen University Founder and CEO Eric Liu, and Big Thoughts CEO Byron Sanders. Now, it’s their turn.

“If I can make a difference, then I can lead others to make a difference as well.”
— Allison Martinez, Moisés E. Molina High School, 9th grade

Teams of eight students and two educator coaches will now have eight weeks to design solutions to their chosen challenge and present them to a panel of judges and peers for a chance to bring their ideas to the Aspen Ideas Festival stage this summer.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Aspen Challenge not only because I get to learn about the challenges that our community is facing, but also bring solutions to the table.”
— Orlando Briones, Thomas Jefferson High School, 12th grade

Check out the challenges issued at the Aspen Challenge: Dallas Opening Forum below and at

Liz Cedillo-Pereira
Challenge #1


I challenge you to design a program that creates support for immigrants in your community, one that moves beyond fear and tolerance to an authentic state of welcoming.

Jennifer Valenzuela
Challenge #2

I challenge you to develop a solution to reduce a health inequity facing your community, using your community’s assets and identifying where more support is needed.

Eric Liu
Challenge #3

I challenge you to organize young people in your community to practice civic power and cultivate civic character.

Megan Davis & Aaryaman Singhal
Challenge #4

We challenge you to restore and protect green spaces in Dallas so that more community members will receive the benefits of being in a natural environment, while improving Dallas’s ability to support wildlife and biodiversity.

Jessica Gomez
Challenge #5

I challenge you to examine the concept of belonging as it pertains to mental health in your community, and create a program that not only supports the isolated, but also lays the groundwork for sustaining a culture of inclusiveness.