DC Students Convene to Hear from Renowned Leaders

January 30, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2015, 9:00am ET

Contact: Mary Cappabianca
Senior Associate, Public Affairs and Social Media, The Aspen Institute
202-736-3844 | mary.cappabianca@aspeninstitute.org 

DC Students Convene to Hear from Renowned Leaders
Aspen Challenge calls on students to design bold solutions to tough issues

January 30, Washington, DC — Two-hundred students, teachers, and principals from 20 high schools across Washington, DC will design powerful solutions to some of our world’s most pressing issues in the Aspen Challenge, a program of the Aspen Institute founded in partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation. The Aspen Challenge: Washington DC is holding its opening forum today. Presenters will inspire students and challenge teams to create an innovative solution to a highlighted problem, ranging from access to nutritious food, to poverty or sustainable water use.

Featured presenters include:

  • Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State
  • José Andrés, culinary innovator and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup
  • Josh Bernstein, explorer and host of History Channel’s “Digging for the Truth”
  • Eric Dawson, president and co-founder of Peace First
  • Kaya Henderson, chancellor of DC Public Schools
  • Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute; author
  • Michel Martin, NPR host
  • Scott Pearson, executive director of DC Public Charter School Board
  • Alfre Woodard, actor, director and producer
  • Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, dancer and 2014 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence 

To learn more about the presenters and the Aspen Challenge visit theaspenchallenge.org.

“Thanks to the vision and commitment of our partners at the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation, our students will be among the earliest school districts in the country to participate in this important competition,” DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said. “I’m incredibly excited to see them tackle issues that affect all of us today, whether that’s STEM or peace-building, poverty or international understanding.”

“Young people have the power to change the world – that’s what the Aspen Challenge is all about. Public charter schools give our students the tools every day to make a difference and we’re proud to be part of the Aspen Challenge,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director of the DC Public Charter School Board.

Over the next seven weeks, each team will work on designing a solution to the challenge they have selected. As part of this effort, they must engage their community to pilot the idea, and craft persuasive presentations to present to a panel of judges in the program’s competition on March 20. The three top teams will have the opportunity to present their solutions at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO.

“We are delighted to expand the Aspen Challenge, now in its third year, to our nation’s capital,” said Kitty Boone, vice president of public programs and director of the Aspen Ideas Festival. “These impressive young people, like so many others across the country, bring fresh perspectives and creativity to problem solving in ways that will strengthen their communities.  This collaborative approach to dealing with complex dilemmas is core to the Aspen Institute’s mission, and will serve as a foundation for their student and work lives moving forward.”

“From Los Angeles to Denver and now Washington DC, the Aspen Challenge is inspiring students across the country to find bold and innovative solutions for complex global problems,” said Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation. “It is wonderful to see students and teachers from Washington DC bringing their energy, intelligence and creativity to help make our world a better place for everyone.

Participating High Schools

Anacostia High School
Benjamin Banneker High School
Calvin Coolidge High School
Capital City Public Charter School
Cardozo Education School
Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy
Columbia Heights Education Campus
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Eastern High School
Frank W. Ballou High School
H.D. Woodson S.T.E.M. High School
McKinley Technology High School
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School
The SEED School of Washington, DC
Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School
Washington Latin Public Charter School
Washington Metropolitan High School
Woodrow Wilson High School

The Aspen Challenge also takes place in Los Angeles and Denver.

For more information, please visit theaspenchallenge.org or www.facebook.com/TheAspenChallenge. For up-to-date information, visit us on Twitter @AspenInstitute and follow the conversation: #aspenchallenge. 


The Aspen Challenge—launched by the Aspen Institute and 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 theaspenchallenge.org.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. 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, DC; 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 www.aspeninstitute.org.

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