Aspen Challenge Launches in Brooklyn, Empowering Students to Drive Change in their Communities

February 1, 2023

On February 16, teams from 20 Brooklyn North Public High Schools will be inspired by leaders to innovate solutions for their communities

Contact: Ben Berliner
The Aspen Institute

Brooklyn, NY, February 1, 2023 – The Aspen Challenge, a program of the Aspen Institute, founded with the Bezos Family Foundation, is launching in Brooklyn with events and programming for 20 high schools throughout the borough. The Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to design solutions to some of the most critical problems humanity faces.

In partnership with the New York City Public Schools Brooklyn North District, Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn will kick off with a daylong youth leadership development forum on Thursday, February 16. Teams of students and educators will hear from an array of “Expert Challengers,” leaders and thinkers who will present a series of challenges to the students on topics ranging from violence prevention to health equity. 

Expert Challengers and speakers include Misty Copeland, Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, who will be in conversation with Damian Woetzel, President of the Juilliard School; Chancellor David C. Banks of the New York City Public Schools; Kenya George, community organizer and youth developer, presenting on postsecondary opportunities; Ebele Onyema of the The One Love Foundation, presenting on healthy relationships; and Marcus Bullock of Flikshop, presenting on violence prevention, with more presenters to be announced.

“We’re excited to debut the Aspen Challenge in Brooklyn, and look forward to the bold solutions that the borough’s students will develop to address the most pressing challenges facing their community and the world,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The Aspen Institute is proud and inspired to partner with New York City Public Schools Brooklyn North District to help cultivate the rising generation of leaders committed to driving positive change.”

“We are thrilled to have the Aspen Challenge launch in the biggest school district in the country for our tenth year,” said Katie Fitzgerald, Managing Director of the Aspen Challenge. “The depth of cultural richness in Brooklyn and the tenacity of the students will make for incredibly impactful community projects. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

After the Challenge Forum on February 16, teams will have 10 weeks to create innovative solutions to the challenges, implementing their projects in their chosen communities. On April 27, teams will reconvene to present their solutions to a panel of judges during the program-culminating Solution Showcase. Three winning teams will be chosen as the Grand Prize winners of Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn and will be flown to Aspen, Colorado to present their community solution at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Other awards will include schoolroom tech and other items to be announced.

“I’m so excited about the opportunity that the Aspen Challenge gives our students: An opportunity to use their classroom studies to create solutions for the real-world issues facing their communities,” said David C. Banks, Chancellor of New York City Public Schools. “This is exactly the type of programming that we want to encourage in our schools as we work toward making sure all of our students can use their skills to be a positive force for change.”

The Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn Challenge Forum will take place at Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday, February 16. Throughout the daylong event, 20 teams consisting of eight students and two teachers who act as coaches—will hear from a wide range of leaders. The five challenges being presented were chosen after the Aspen Institute hosted focus groups with high school students enrolled in Brooklyn high schools where young people spoke of the issues they feel are most pertinent to their everyday lives. For complete information on the event, including the day’s agenda, please visit:

Participating Schools:

  • All City Leadership Secondary School
  • A-Tech High School
  • Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development
  • Boys and Girls High School
  • Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM)
  • Brooklyn Lab School
  • The Brooklyn Latin School
  • FDNY – Captain Vernon A. Richard High School for Fire and Life Safety
  • Cobble Hill School of American Studies
  • Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School
  • East Williamsburg Scholars Academy
  • George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School
  • High School for Civil Rights
  • Nelson Mandela High School
  • PROGRESS High School for Professional Careers
  • School for Classics High School
  • Science Skills Center High School for Science, Technology, and the Creative Arts
  • Sunset Park High School
  • Teachers Preparatory High School
  • Williamsburg High School of Art and Technology

The inaugural Aspen Challenge launched in collaboration with Los Angeles Unified School District in 2013. Since its inception, the Challenge has expanded to include partnerships with school districts in Denver, Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Louisville, Miami, and New Orleans.


For more information on Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn or to attend as a covering member of the media, please contact Ben Berliner:

The Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to design solutions to some of the most critical problems humanity faces. For more information on Aspen Challenge, please visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, please visit

New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) is the largest public school system in the United States, serving more than 900,000 students in over 1,800 schools. The department is responsible for the education of children from 3K through 12th grade and is overseen by the New York City Schools Chancellor, who is appointed by the Mayor of New York City. The NYCPS’ mission is to ensure that each student graduates on a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security, equipped to be a positive force for change. To achieve this goal, the department sets rigorous academic standards, provides resources and support to schools and teachers, and offers a wide range of programs and services to students and families. New York City Public Schools is dedicated to providing all students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life and building a brighter future for the city of New York.

The Brooklyn North High Schools (BKNHS) district represents 47 high schools across seven community school districts in New York City. BKNHS serves approximately 27,000 students from culturally diverse backgrounds including African American/Black, White/Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, Asian. Additionally, the district is home to many historical and new immigrants from the Caribbean, South and Central America, Africa, India, and South Asia. Our schools are as diverse as its student body, comprising large comprehensive high schools, CTE schools, and an array of mid-size and small high schools offering specialized, personalized instructional programs to serve and support the whole child. These differentiated instructional and student services are responsive to the diverse learning needs of students with an emphasis on ensuring that students with disabilities and English Language Learners receive equitable, rigorous instruction and services equal to their peers.


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