Louisville Students and Communities Overcome Circumstances and Triumph During the Aspen Challenge

May 5, 2020

Despite setbacks due to COVID-19, students rose to the challenge with innovative solutions to pressing issues

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Louisville, KY and Washington, DC, May 5, 2020 – Overcoming the unique issues posed by COVID-19, JCPS students demonstrated creativity, tenacity, collaboration, perseverance, and leadership during the Aspen Challenge: Louisville Virtual Competition which took place online over two days on April 29 and 30. Teams from nineteen JCPS high schools created bold solutions to combat critical issues in their communities over three months of the Aspen Challenge program and presented their projects to a panel of judges comprised of local Louisville leaders.

The event was originally scheduled for March 19 at the University of Louisville but had to be moved online after all JCPS schools were ordered closed on March 16. Teams rose to the challenge by altering their presentations to fit the online format and presented from the safety of their own homes. All teams taking part demonstrated many of the skills and attributes necessary to create impactful, sustainable change and address real issues in their communities, with Team AmaZing of Marion C. Moore High School crowned winner for their innovative children’s book.

  • The Marion C. Moore High School chose a challenge issued by University of Louisville professor Theo Edmonds to bring cultural wellbeing to places where students work and learn. Marion C. Moore’s Team AmaZing created an identity-inclusive children’s book which brought to life superhero children from various racial and religious backgrounds. The book has been published and is available at elementary schools and libraries across Louisville. The team also created a teaching guide for those who plan to use it as curriculum.
  • Second place went to The Academy at Shawnee’s Revolution Academy who also took on Theo Edmonds’ challenge of cultural wellbeing. Revolution Academy facilitates workshops to provide a safe space to discuss culturally relevant issues for students at their high school. The team also created a toolkit for other schools to adopt their approach.
  • Third place went to Louisville Male High School’s Team S.A.V.E. who tackled the challenge to educate peers about the dangers of vaping issued by Ted Smith, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Team S.A.V.E. created an afterschool club to replace the punitive measures of detention for students who are caught vaping on school property. The club educates their peers about the dangers of vaping and helps guide students to resources that could help them quit. The team is also raising money to install vape detectors in all of their high school’s bathrooms. They also work with the three middle schools that feed into Louisville Male to encourage soon-to-be high school students to not begin the habit.

In place of attending this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival, which has been cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, students in the winning team will each receive a new MacBook Pro and AirPods headphones.

The Aspen Challenge will live on in Louisville, Kentucky, as the Kentucky Wellbeing Challenge through the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences. The Kentucky Wellbeing Challenge will be a statewide program in which high school across Kentucky have the opportunity to solve issues facing their communities.

Launched by the Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation in 2012, the Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to address critical issues and become leaders in their communities. In Louisville, 160 students embarked on the Aspen Challenge journey in January with a day of inspiration and engagement from cross-sector leaders. During the Opening Forum, these leaders challenged Louisville students to create solutions for issues including immigration, food insecurity, gun violence, identity, and vaping. Teams representing nineteen schools from across the city accepted one of the five challenges presented and had eight weeks to design solutions that would create a better, more equitable Louisville.

Additional awards were presented to teams from Valley Traditional High School for Collaboration, Fern Creek High School for Originality, and Newcomer Academy and Butler Traditional High School for Resilience.

The Aspen Challenge will live on in Louisville, Kentucky as the Kentucky Wellbeing Challenge through University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences. The Kentucky Wellbeing Challenge will be a statewide program in which high schools across Kentucky will have the opportunity to solve issues facing their communities.

Currently in its eighth year, the Aspen Challenge has previously partnered with the Los Angeles Unified Schools District, Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Dallas Independent School District. In addition to Louisville, the Aspen Challenge is also partnering with Miami-Dade County Public Schools this year.

Participating High Schools

  • Ballard High School
  • Butler Traditional High School
  • Central High School, Magnet & Career Academy
  • Doss High School
  • Eastern High School
  • Fern Creek High School
  • Jefferson County High School
  • J.M. Atherton High School
  • Jeffersontown High School
  • Louisville Male High School
  • Marion C. Moore High School
  • Newcomer Academy
  • Pleasure Ridge Park High School
  • Seneca High School
  • Southern High School
  • The Academy at Shawnee
  • The Phoenix School of Discovery
  • Valley Traditional High School
  • Waggener High School

The Aspen Challenge, a program of The Aspen Institute presented in partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation, provides a platform, inspiration and tools for young people to design solutions to some of the most critical and complicated problems we face. For more information, please visit aspenchallenge.org

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, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.


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