Philadelphia students prove they are worthy of the Aspen Challenge

Can young people solve problems that are older than they are? Adults encouraged them to step up, share ideas and shine. The students met the challenge.

They're lazy, they are apathetic, they don't care about anything but sitting around playing video games. These are all labels that society has given to young people. But, some aren't buying it. Some, like Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite believe if they are given a chance, the students just might be able to solve the world's problems.

"They are the voice of leadership for us. And, I think that giving them the opportunity to be that voice of leadership is something that is really an important part of their education," said Dr. Hite.

It looked like a regular assembly but it was much deeper than that. It was the Philadelphia School District and a non-profit telling young people their voice is heard.

"If we never ask them to practice problem solving issues in their community, then they never think of themselves in that way," Dr. Hite explained.

It's called the Aspen Challenge. Local schools were presented with issues and challenged to come up with solutions. Charter schools, district schools and alternative schools were all represented and broke down the stereotype of the underachieving Philly youth.

One by one, they presented their ideas. From encouraging sponsored trash cans shaped as basketball hoops to creative arts programs for those not necessarily interested in traditional education, to simple things one student says they've been asking for for years.

"Turning down the lighting was real easy. A lot of kids are more comfortable now they can leave the lights on and do their work easier," said one of the students involved in the challenge.

And, they saved energy costs while doing it.

The ideas were interesting but what stood out were two things. First, these young people want to improve their neighborhoods.

And, they see things in ways that adults may not.

Winners get another chance to present their ideas and possibly have those ideas funded. The bigger takeaway was give young people a chance to get involved and they just might surprise everyone. For goodness' sake.