Brooklyn Students Triumph at the Aspen Challenge

May 2, 2023

Students from Brooklyn’s public schools stepped up to the challenge with innovative solutions to Brooklyn’s most pressing issues, with three teams selected to present at the Aspen Ideas Festival  

Contact: Ben Berliner
Aspen Institute

Brooklyn, NY, May 2, 2023 – Students from Brooklyn’s public schools showcased creativity, tenacity, collaboration, perseverance, and civic leadership during the Aspen Challenge: Brooklyn competition over the past eight weeks. On April 27th at Brooklyn’s iconic Weylin, three out of 20 teams — from Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School, East Williamsburg Scholars Academy, and Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School — were named winners of the Aspen Challenge, for their solutions bold and disruptive enough to earn a place on the Aspen Ideas Festival stage. All the teams taking part demonstrated many of the skills and attributes necessary to create impactful, sustainable change and address pressing issues in their communities. The grand prize winners were:

Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School (BCAM)
In response to a challenge presented by Kenya George of BUILD NYC to help peers explore the variety of pathways to post-secondary success, BCAM established Project BLACK (Building Legacy and Community Kinship), a hybrid hub of resources designed to empower high school students to explore their interests in a serious way and to identify the community supports they need in order to leverage their passions for personal and professional fulfillment. Project BLACK offers students virtual and physical space to research different career paths and hosts workshops with guest speakers to supplement the explorations independently conducted by their peers.   

East Williamsburg Scholars Academy (EW-SA)
To solve Ebele Onyema of One Love Foundation’s challenge to launch a movement to encourage young people to talk about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, EW-SA developed a series of outreach events to foster dialogue within their school community. In addition to planning and hosting panel discussions and targeted town hall meetings, East Williamsburg’s initiative – Toxicity in the City – developed a card game, provided education via a rigorous social media campaign, and led partnerships with community-based organizations to further their mission to help their peers safely and healthily navigate relationships.

Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School
To address Matt Haffenreffer of Process First’s challenge to ensure communities’ equitable access to good food, CHCP created a Family Feeds market and live digital cookbook to provide their neighborhood with healthy options as well as inspiration for preparing meals at home. To pilot their initiative, CHCP relied on partnerships with wholesale grocers and community food pantries, but they plan to found and maintain a productive community garden to drive their efforts as they make their efforts more permanent.

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 Brooklyn, 150+ students’ Aspen Challenge journey began in February with a day of inspiration and engagement from cross-sector leaders. During the Opening Forum, these leaders challenged Brooklyn students to create solutions for issues ranging from food insecurity to reentry after incarceration.

Teams representing 20 schools across Brooklyn accepted one of the six presented challenges and had eight weeks to design solutions that would create a better, more equitable community. They then presented their solutions to a panel of judges, with the top three teams earning an all-expense paid trip to present at Aspen Ideas Festival, the Aspen Institute’s annual flagship gathering of global leaders, influencers, and entrepreneurs in Aspen, CO.

Additional awards were presented to teams from Science Skills (for collaboration), Brooklyn Latin (for originality), and Nelson Mandela (for resilience). EW-SA also won the People’s Choice Award.

Participating High Schools

  • All City Leadership Secondary School
  • A-Tech High School
  • Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development
  • Boys and Girls High School
  • Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM)
  • Brooklyn Lab School
  • The Brooklyn Latin School
  • FDNY – Captain Vernon A. Richard High School for Fire and Life Safety
  • Cobble Hill School of American Studies
  • Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School
  • East Williamsburg Scholars Academy
  • George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School
  • High School for Civil Rights
  • Nelson Mandela High School
  • PROGRESS High School for Professional Careers
  • School for Classics High School
  • Science Skills Center High School for Science, Technology, and the Creative Arts
  • Sunset Park High School
  • Teachers Preparatory High School
  • Williamsburg High School of Art and Technology

Currently in its 11th 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, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Dallas Independent School District, Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and the School District of Philadelphia. In addition to Brooklyn, the Aspen Challenge is also partnering with New Schools for New Orleans this year.

Editor’s Note: For images from the competition event, more information about individual team projects, or to request an interview with organizers or participants, please contact Ben Berliner:

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

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, D.C.; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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