Three LA Teams Win Aspen Challenge Competition for Their Innovative Solution to Global Challenges

April 16, 2013

Contact: Lydia Ramos
Los Angeles Unified School District



Students across LA present their big ideas in the first-ever Aspen Challenge, launched by the Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation with Los Angeles Unified School District 

April 15, Los Angeles, CA – Three student teams from across LA, representing Downtown Magnets High School, Taft High School and Westchester High School won the top prize during the final Aspen Challenge competition. It was the culmination of seven weeks of planning, prototyping and community building, which mobilized 200 students from 20 LA schools to create, and then present, solutions to some of our most pressing issues. Judges awarded three winning teams a full scholarship to attend the acclaimed Aspen Ideas Festival in June, 2013.  

Launched by The Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), this citywide competition began with a two-day forum where leaders pioneering change to pressing world issues presented the teams with a challenge. Teams then had seven-weeks to design a solution to a challenge topic. 

Equipped with tools and resources, students worked with an educator coach to strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills during the seven weeks, while collaborating with peers to design a solution to the challenge they selected. The teams presented and gathered input from their community throughout the process. 

Teams presented a variety of inspired solutions including: the establishment of an anti-bullying network; a portrait of LA’s homeless population; multi-generational dance competitions; a STEM education festival and more. 

On April 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center, a panel of judges named three winning teams—judged on their solution’s creativity, feasibility, originality and teamwork.

The team from Downtown Magnets designed a solution to address David Gallos’ challenge to start a social movement to protect the oceans. The team, O.C.E.A.N Los Angeles organized beach cleanups, presented at community events, schools, formed partnerships with businesses, designed posters and videos, and amplified their work through social media. 

Students from Taft High School—named the Transcendentalists—designed a solution to address Dean Kamen’s challenge to increase awareness about and enthusiasm for science and technology. The team did this through their campaign, Spreading Sprouts—creating gardens, designing and teaching an art, science and math curriculum for elementary school students around their community. They plan to help the schools maintain their gardens through summer programs. 

Westchester High School selected Kristin Groos Richmond’s challenge to bring peers together to create a healthier community in regards to food. The team, named Comet Radiation, designed an Aquaponics system and has plans to implement a farmer’s market to create a healthy community and produce green resources right on Westchetter soil. 

“It’s been an honor to be part of the Aspen Challenge,” said Ana Mejia, coach of the US Grant High School team, C.R.E.A.T.E. “My students were inspired and empowered to create something extraordinary. Through this experience, they learned that they live in a world of endless possibilities and that they have the power to create a meaningful impact in the world.” 

The teams received a full scholarship to present their creative solution to a gathering of global leaders, policymakers and entrepreneurs at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO. 

“We are forever grateful to the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation for believing and investing in our LAUSD students,” LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said. “The Aspen Challenge helped light the fire in many of our students to be the next big thinkers, designers and engineers of change. There is no stopping the students who grew intellectually and interpersonally through this great challenge.”

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

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
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 and follow the conversation on Twitter: @AspenInstitute and #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 or

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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