Aspen Challenge: New Orleans Culminates in Solution Showcase

May 5, 2022

Students present inspiring solutions for change created over the eight-week program


Contact: Ben Berliner
The Aspen Institute

New Orleans, LA, May 5, 2022 – The winning student teams of the eight-week Aspen Challenge: New Orleans were announced at the Solution Showcase on Thursday, April 28, a culminating event in which student creativity, tenacity, collaboration, perseverance, and civic leadership were on full display.

Eighteen teams from Orleans Parish presented bold solutions to combat critical issues within their communities to a panel of judges comprised of local New Orleans leaders. In the Aspen Challenge’s first year in New Orleans, teams demonstrated many of the skills and attributes necessary to create impactful, sustainable change and addressed real issues in their communities. The three grand prize winners were:

  • Benjamin Franklin High School at the Katherine Johnson Campus (Krewe Du CYPRESS)
    In response to the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice’s Dr. Beverly Wright’s challenge to educate their peers in an effort to combat the climate crisis, Benjamin Franklin High School created an awareness campaign driven by art installations and murals that reminds New Orleans citizens of the height of the water line caused by Hurricane Katrina’s flooding of their city in 2005. The water lines are accompanied by QR codes that people can use to access a website with detailed information about how to get involved in community work to prevent future natural disasters fueled by climate change, including their own effort to plant cypress trees along major roadways.
  • Frederick A. Douglass High School (Operation Hope 4 NOLA)
    In response to author Marlon James’s challenge to create a counter-narrative to outside perceptions seeking to define New Orleans by its violence, the team at Frederick A. Douglass launched a series of community-based events that showcase the vibrancy and love of its city’s culture, most notably a pop-up event featuring teen entrepreneurs and artisans from Orleans Parish. The team plans to host future pop-up events in and around the city in hopes that attendees walk away knowing that the young people of New Orleans are creative, hardworking, and in tune with the soul of their city.
  • The NET Charter High School: Central City (Love in Action)
    In response to the Born This Way Foundation’s Taylor Parker’s challenge to spread kindness in order to improve the collective mental health of New Orleans, Central City’s team led a network-wide campaign to promote empathy and change the way that students see themselves. In addition to establishing an ongoing letter-writing campaign between students at their school and Louisiana’s incarcerated, Central City founded a mentoring program for middle school students at their partner middle school and filmed a documentary showcasing the beauty of young people in New Orleans.

All three grand prize teams will now travel to Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, where they will present their project.

Additional awards went to four teams: Morris Jeff High School won the Collaboration Award and the People’s Choice Award; Eleanor McMain Secondary School and Sarah T. Reed High School won the Resilience Award; and Lycée Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans (LFNO) won the Originality Award; these four teams won Visa gift cards. All 18 schools that participated in the Aspen Challenge will also receive $500 in additional funding to continue their projects.

Launched by the Aspen Institute and the 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 New Orleans, students and educators embarked on the Aspen Challenge journey on March 10 with a day of inspiration and engagement from cross-sector leaders.

During the Challenge Forum, these leaders challenged New Orleans students to create solutions for issues including the environment, mental health, poverty alleviation, city infrastructure, and violence prevention. Teams representing eighteen high schools from across Orleans Parish accepted one of the five challenges presented and had eight weeks to design solutions that would create a better, more equitable New Orleans. Local coverage of the winners announcement can be found on

Currently in its tenth year, the Aspen Challenge is wrapped up in Miami, Florida, working alongside eighteen high schools at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The 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, the Dallas Independent School District, Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.

Participating Schools

  • Benjamin Franklin High School at the Katherine Johnson Campus
  • Booker T. Washington High School
  • Edna Karr High School
  • Eleanor McMain Secondary School
  • Frederick A. Douglass High School
  • W. Carver High School
  • B. Landry High School
  • Livingston Collegiate
  • Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans (LFNO)
  • McDonogh 35 Senior High School
  • Morris Jeff High School
  • New Harmony High School
  • New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School (Sci High)
  • Rooted School
  • Rosenwald Collegiate
  • Sarah T. Reed High School
  • Sophie B. Wright High School
  • The NET Charter High School: Central City


For more information on Aspen Challenge: New Orleans, please contact Ben Berliner, Associate, Media Relations, Aspen Institute at

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 

New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) has a mission to deliver on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans. To guide their work, NSNO has established a set of core values that they rely on to fulfill that mission. NSNO prioritizes work around race, equity, and inclusiveness within each of their priorities. They know that their pursuit of anti-racism and equity, both within their organization and outside it, is necessary and must be ongoing. For more information on NSNO, please visit


View Comments