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

January 30, 2024

Beginning February 21, students from 19 schools across San Diego will develop solutions to pressing issues; selected teams will present their projects at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Contact: Jon Purves
Media Relations Director
The Aspen Institute

San Diego, CA, January 30, 2024 – The Aspen Challenge, a program of the Aspen Institute, founded with the Bezos Family Foundation, is coming to San Diego. Presented in partnership with San Diego Unified School District, teams of students from 19 high schools across the city will participate over a ten-week period. The Aspen Challenge provides inspiration, tools, and a platform for young people to design solutions to some of the most critical problems humanity faces.

Aspen Challenge: San Diego will kick off with a daylong youth leadership development forum on Thursday, February 21st. Participating Teams of students and educators will hear from “Expert Challengers,” leaders and thinkers who will present a series of challenges to the students on topics including mental health, climate change, unhoused populations, school attendance, and immigration.

Expert Challengers include the founders of the “All Black Men Need Therapy” podcast, Chris “Bell” Bellamy, Michael “Chief” Peterson, and Prentice Powell; San Diego Housing Commission Director of Homelessness Operations, Megan Burt; San Diego Housing Commission Senior Program Analyst Ilene Lozada; WILDCOAST Associate Director Anne Middleton; and MENTOR California President & CEO Marcus L. Strother. The forum will be opened by San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Lamont A. Jackson and Emceed by Natasha Carrizosa, Poet, Writer, Creative Writing Teacher and Speaker.

After the Challenge Forum, teams will have 10 weeks to create innovative solutions to the challenges, implementing their projects in their chosen communities. On May 1st, 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: San Diego and will fly 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.

“At the Aspen Institute, we know how vital it is to support our society’s rising generations of young leaders and ignite their potential to develop solutions for and with their communities,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “I am grateful for our partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation and the San Diego Unified School District to deliver the Aspen Challenge, and can’t wait for these 19 student teams to drive real, positive change through this inspiring initiative.”   

San Diego Unified believes in lifting student voice, and fostering conditions that allow all students to thrive and be leaders. I am so grateful to the Aspen Institute for making this opportunity available, allowing our students to develop even stronger connections to our community by taking ownership of the issues we all face.San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Lamont A. Jackson said.

The Aspen Challenge: San Diego youth leadership development forum will take place at The Prado, 1549 El Prado, San Diego on Thursday, February 21. Throughout the daylong event, 19 teams consisting of eight students and two teachers who act as coaches—will be presented five Challenges and ultimately decide which one to take on. 

“I am delighted that the Aspen Challenge is coming to the vibrant city of San Diego,” said Katie Fitzgerald, Managing Director of the Aspen Challenge. “This is the Challenge’s first return to the West Coast since it began in Los Angeles more than a decade ago, and I am looking forward to witnessing firsthand the ingenuity and passion of the students at San Diego Unified School District.” 

The challenges being presented were chosen after the Aspen Institute hosted focus groups with high school students enrolled in San Diego Unified 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:

  1. Canyon Hills High School
  2. Clairemont High School
  3. Crawford High School
  4. Patrick Henry High School
  5. Hoover High School
  6. Lincoln High School
  7. Madison High School
  8. Mira Mesa High School
  9. Mission Bay High School
  10. Morse High School
  11. Mt. Everest Academy
  12. Point Loma High School
  13. San Diego High School
  14. San Diego Metropolitan Regional and Technical High School
  15. San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts
  16. San Diego SOAR Academy- Youth Transition Campus
  17. Scripps Ranch High School
  18. Twain Hoover High School
  19. University City 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, Louisville, Miami, New Orleans, and Brooklyn.

For more information on Aspen Challenge: San Diego or to attend as a covering member of the media, please contact Jon Purves:

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 whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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