Civic Action

Ready to Lead: Watch Louisville High School Students Take on the Aspen Challenge

February 28, 2019  • Samantha Garzillo

A new city, a new opportunity to make change.

This year, the Aspen Challenge partnered with the Jefferson County Public Schools to launch in Louisville, Kentucky. At the Aspen Challenge: Louisville Opening Forum, 144 high schoolers came together at the Muhammad Ali Center to hear challenges about issues impacting their community. For Merion C. Moore School freshman Josue Velasquez, he’s excited for this opportunity to make an impact and have his voice heard.

Each year, the Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to design solutions to address critical issues. Louisville teams will be addressing local and national problems like air pollution, forced labor, immigration, health inequity, civic participation, and mental health. In teams of eight students and two educator coaches, they’ll 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 hope that we can do something sustainable so that it can continue, and I can feel like I left a mark on my community and it’s something that will continue after I graduate.
— Leigh Henry, J. Graham Brown High School, junior

At Opening Forum, they heard from inspirational speakers including Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio, Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield, New York Times writer Wajahat Ali, Snapchat’s Erica Williams Simon, and poet Harold Green. In eight weeks, they’ll be the ones taking the stage to present their solutions and inspire us.

Youth today are the most valuable resource when it comes to shaping the world. If our voices are smothered, if we aren’t heard, our ideas aren’t put to work, and we aren’t put to the challenge- it’s a waste of a resource.
— November Offutt, Waggener High School, junior

Check out the challenges issues at the Aspen Challenge: Louisville Opening Forum below and at

Steph Speirs
Challenge #1

I challenge you to raise awareness  around air pollution levels and improve your city’s emissions to create clean air for generations to come.

Martina Vandenberg
Challenge #2

I challenge you to raise awareness around forced labor in global supply chains, and resist this abuse that pervades our clothing, food, and so many other products we consume.

Wajahat Ali
Challenge #3

I challenge you to work with Louisville’s immigrant communities and other partners who care about immigrants’ rights to create and promote a program that both integrates immigrants and celebrates this city’s diverse cultures.

Alexandra Quinn and Tigee Hill
Challenge #4

We 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.

Jeff Rosen
Challenge #5

I challenge you to foster civic participation by engaging your community in conversations about important constitutional questions, such as whether the First Amendment protects hate speech or how the Second Amendment can balance the right to bear arms and the right to be safe at school.

Jenara Nerenberg
Challenge #6

I challenge you to remove the stigma around one’s own mental health by creating safe spaces to speak freely and challenge the social norms that impede such freedom.