Aspen Challenge Returns to Miami: Virtual 2021 Program to Empower Students to Drive Change in their Communities

February 17, 2021

Twenty Student Teams from Miami-Dade County Public Schools to Participate in Virtual Programming and Teamwork

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Miami, FL, February 17, 2021 – The Aspen Challenge, a program of the Aspen Institute founded with the Bezos Family Foundation, is re-launching in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) to bring Aspen Challenge 2021 to Miami with an all-new virtual program. A daylong virtual youth leadership development forum on Thursday, February 25 kicks off this year’s Aspen Challenge. Teams of students and teachers from 20 high schools throughout Miami will hear from leaders pioneering change to current pressing issues. Aspen Challenge: Miami was initially launched in early 2020 and was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expert Challengers include Gaby Pacheco, presenting on immigration, Brandon Wolf, presenting on violence mitigation, Solome Tibebu, presenting on mental health, Helah Robinson, presenting on poverty alleviation, and Leisha John, presenting on climate change. Each Challenger is charged with updating their call-to-action to reflect the realities and hardships that 2020 brought upon society. Teams will also hear from inspirational speakers such as Gloria Estefan who will reinforce how important and impactful it is to apply yourself to create community change.

After the Challenge Forum on February 25, teams have ten weeks to create innovative solutions to the challenges, implementing their project in the communities they define. On April 22 and 23, teams will reconvene to present their solutions to a panel of judges in a virtual competition. Three winning teams will be chosen as the Grand Prize winners for Aspen Challenge 2021. Prizes will include scholarships, technology, and other items to be announced at the Challenge Forum.

“We are thrilled to restart the Aspen Challenge in Miami, especially during a year when we have never been more in need of big ideas and bold solutions from the next generation,” said Katie Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Aspen Challenge. “Having experienced the energy and excitement of M-DCPS students first-hand during the 2020 launch, I have no doubt that this year is going to be something special.”

“We are committed to equipping students with the necessary skills to succeed in the future and providing opportunities to enhance their ability to thrive in modern society,” said Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “During a time when our youth is ready to take on some of the most challenging issues facing society, we are elated to partner with the world-renowned Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation to bring one of the Institute’s signature programs to Miami.”

Joe Hornstein, Principal Gifts Officer at Florida International University who will be acting as a judge at the culminating competition, remarked, “I am so happy the Aspen Challenge is back on again in Miami. I think we have such a tremendous conversation (and opportunity) coming out of this epically horrible period of time. The high schoolers may not realize just how pivotal their generation is going to be in how we write the history. The Aspen Challenge will be hyper inspiring.”

The Aspen Challenge Opening Forum will take place on Thursday, February 25 during an all-day virtual event on Zoom. Throughout the all-day event, 20 teams—which consist 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 Challenge hosted a community roundtable of Miami-Dade County Public School students in the Fall of 2019, asking the students what issues they feel are most pertinent to their everyday lives. The Aspen Institute re-confirmed with teams in the summer of 2020 that they would like to be presented with the same Challenge topics for the 2021 program. For complete information on the event, including the day’s agenda, please visit

Participating Schools

  • Alonzo & Tracy Mourning Senior High School
  • Dorothy M. Wallace COPE Center (COPE South)
  • Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School
  • Hialeah Senior High School
  • Homestead Senior High School
  • International Studies Preparatory Academy (ISPA)
  • iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center
  • John A. Ferguson Senior High School
  • José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy
  • Miami Coral Park Senior High School
  • Miami Jackson Senior High School
  • Miami Norland Senior High School
  • Miami Palmetto Senior High School
  • Miami Southridge Senior High School
  • Miami Springs Senior High School
  • North Miami Beach Senior High School
  • North Miami Senior High School
  • Robert Morgan Educational Center
  • Ronald W. Reagan/Doral Senior High School
  • Southwest Miami Senior High School

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, and Louisville. Miami marks the eighth partnership between the Aspen Challenge and cities across the United States.


For more information on Aspen Challenge: Miami Challenge Forum, please contact Jon Purves, Senior Media Relations Manager, Aspen Institute at

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

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

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), an A-rated district, is the nation’s fourth largest school system with nearly 400 schools and a diverse enrollment of more than 350,000 students from over 160 countries. Our ongoing tradition of groundbreaking achievement has earned top recognition at the national and international levels. M-DCPS also recently reached a landmark graduation rate of 89.2 percent. For five decades, M-DCPS has been a leader in Choice, now offering more than 1,000 cutting-edge, award-winning programs designed to prepare students for 21st century learning in the age of innovation and technology. Students and their families play an active role in choosing educational opportunities that foster academic excellence, school-to-career pathways and real-world learning.

View Comments