Aspen Challenge Debuts in New Orleans, Empowering Students to Drive Change in Their Communities

March 7, 2022

Nineteen Student Teams from High Schools across Orleans Parish to Lead Projects to Deliver Solutions to Critical Local Issues


Contact: Ben Berliner
The Aspen Institute

New Orleans, LA, March 7, 2022 – The Aspen Challenge, a program of the Aspen Institute founded with the Bezos Family Foundation, is launching in New Orleans with in-person events and programming for nineteen high schools across Orleans Parish. In partnership with New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), Aspen Challenge 2022 will kick off with a daylong youth leadership development forum on Thursday, March 10. Teams of students and educators from 19 high schools from Orleans Parish will hear from leaders pioneering change to current pressing issues.

Expert Challengers include Alex Aide, presenting on mental health, Lona Edwards Hankins, presenting on improving infrastructure, Marlon Peterson, presenting on poverty alleviation, Camille Range, presenting on food insecurity, and Dr. Beverly L. Wright, presenting on the environment. Each Challenger is charged to deliver a 15-minute pitch outlining their topic which culminates in a direct call-to-action for the young people to solve. Other inspirational speakers will also address the students, including members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in conversation with NPR correspondent Gwen Thompkins on driving towards activism through a lens of community-based cultural traditions.

After the Challenge Forum on March 10, teams have eight weeks to create innovative solutions to the challenges, implementing their projects in their chosen communities. On Thursday, April 28, teams will reconvene to present their solutions to a panel of judges during the program-culminating in-person Solution Showcase. Three winning teams will be chosen as the Grand Prize winners of Aspen Challenge: New Orleans 2022 and will be flown to Aspen, Colorado to present their community solution at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Other awards will include technology and other items to be announced.

“In the short time the Aspen Challenge has spent in New Orleans, it has become incredibly apparent how close knit and passionate the community is about the city and the wonderful culture that the city exudes,” Katie Fitzgerald, Managing Director of the Aspen Challenge said. “We cannot wait to work with the young people of Orleans Parish to see how they create lasting change in their communities through their Aspen Challenge Solutions.”

“We are incredibly excited to have the Aspen Challenge come to New Orleans, and we know our students will come up with impactful, creative solutions for our community,” said Patrick Dobard, CEO of NSNO. “We’re grateful to the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation for this opportunity and thrilled that our children have this chance to showcase their talent and skills while learning and collaborating together to create lasting, positive change in our city.”

The Aspen Challenge: New Orleans Challenge Forum will take place on Thursday, March 10 during the event at the Audubon Nature Institute – Tea Room. Throughout the all-day event, 19 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 Institute hosted two focus groups of high school students enrolled in high schools across Orleans Parish 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

  • 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
  • John F. Kennedy 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


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: New Orleans Challenge Forum 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 Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) has a mission to deliver on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans. NSNO focuses on solutions addressing citywide education talent, instructional quality, policy, and communications. NSNO prioritizes work around race, equity, and inclusiveness within each of their priorities. For more information on NSNO, please visit


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