Students Across LA Collaborate on Bold Solutions for the First-Ever Aspen Challenge

February 22, 2013  • Institute Contributor

Contact: Jeff Harris
Public Affairs and Social Media Manager, The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation with Los Angeles Unified School District launch February 22-23 forum featuring renowned leaders

February 22, Los Angeles, CA – The inaugural Aspen Challenge—a project of the Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation—launches today with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Two hundred students, teachers and principals from 20 high schools across the city will develop leadership skills, collaborate with peers, and be inspired by leading global visionaries, artists and entrepreneurs as they design powerful solutions to some of our world’s most pressing issues. This seven-week program culminates on April 13 when teams compete to win a chance to take the stage at the acclaimed Aspen Ideas Festival in June 2013.

The Aspen Challenge begins with a two-day forum at the California Science Center, February 22 and 23, featuring leaders tackling some of our world’s toughest problems—from ocean and water issues to food deserts to the challenges and potential of social media. Presenters will share personal stories within the context of a pressing global issue they are tackling—challenging teams to create an innovative solution to the problem they spotlight.

Featured presenters include former astronaut and pilot of the space shuttle Endeavour Jeff Ashby; cofounder and chief education and strategy officer of Common Sense Media Linda Burch; world-famous ballroom dancer, arts activist, and educator Pierre Dulaine; renowned oceanographer David Gallo; entrepreneur and inventor Dean Kamen; 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests leader and current investment banker Li Lu; chef and co-founder of Revolution Foods, Inc. Kristin Groos Richmond; filmmaker and creator of Webby Awards Tiffany Shlain; actress, playwright, and Aspen Institute Trustee Anna Deveare Smith; Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa; and cofounder and partner at The Experiment Fund Hugo Van Vuuren. To learn more about the presenters visit the website.  

“We ask our students to dream big, think boldly, and prepare themselves for every challenge they may face,” said John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We are so proud to be the launch site for the Aspen Challenge as it incorporates these elements into one exciting and eye-opening series of experiences.”

For seven weeks following the forum at the California Science Center, students will have opportunities to build their teamwork and leadership skills, working together to design a solution to the challenge they select and present it to their community. Teams of eight students and an educator coach will develop a model, gather community input, and craft persuasive presentations before reconvening on April 13 to showcase their solution to a panel of judges.

“We are honored to launch the first ever Aspen Challenge with these remarkable students from LAUSD,” says Kitty Boone, vice president of public programs and director of the Aspen Ideas Festival. “These young people, like so many others across the country, exhibit creativity and passion while bringing fresh perspectives and leadership through their work, the very core components of the Aspen Institute’s mission.”

The Aspen Challenge will create an annual event in cities nationwide.

“We believe that these students have what it takes to design inspired solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. And now—with the Aspen Challenge—they have the platform to make their voices heard,” said Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation. “We hope that this is a life-changing and transformative experience for these students and their communities.”

On April 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center, the top three teams—judged on their solution’s creativity, feasibility, originality and teamwork—will win a full scholarship to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado where they will present to a gathering of global leader, policymakers and entrepreneurs.

Participating High Schools

Banning High School
Bell High School
Bravo Medical Magnet High School
Dorsey High School
Downtown Magnets High School
Fairfax High School
Garfield High School
Grant High School
Hamilton High School
John F. Kennedy High School
Marshall High School
Middle College High School
Narbonne High School
Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School
Reseda High School
South East High School
Taft High School
Washington Preparatory High School
West Adams Preparatory High School
Westchester ESM High School

For more information, please visit or 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

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

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