Wise Peaceful Presence (WP^2)


Genesis Vasquez

On March 9, 2016, 12 students from Phoenix Military Academy went to Soldier Field to meet with the ASPEN Challenge Program for the opening forum. Denver, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and recently Chicago are participating in the Aspen Challenge. It teaches students
about issues that are vital in the community and provides challenges for  each team to choose  and provide a solution to  within 7 weeks.

In Chicago, the ASPEN program has been recently introduced and 20 schools are participating..  Three or four of the best schools will advance in the competition and present their solutions in Aspen, Colorado at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

At Soldier Field, PMA students engaged in a day long event where they met with famous icons of the American society. There were guest speakers such as the Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools Dr. Janice K. Jackson, former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, US Representative of Georgia,  author and activist John Lewis and Digital Director and Policy Advisor author Andrew Aydin, and recordingartist and community organizer Chancelor Bennett, otherwise known as Chance The Rapper.

The PMA’s team consists of freshmen Destiny Ortega, Jorge Ochoa, Sebastian Turrado, Jeffrey Ren, sophomore Marilyn Ramirez, juniors Joselyn Valerio, Christopher Bentley, and Veronica Perez, and senior captains Taylar Tramil and Genesis Vasquez, with team coaches Mrs. Tobias and First Sergeant Gillam.

For Gilliam and Tobias  it was somewhat difficult to choose who they wanted on the team.. The students had to show a lot of involvement in the community through service.

I picked cadets that had shown in the past a desire for service and commitment to our school mission statement,” said Sergeant Gilliam.

The students on the team were  all honored to have been chosen to be a part of this new program. The program is designed to teach students how to work well in a team and create new ideas on how to help the community. Some think that working on a team may be easy, but it can be difficult if everyone  does not agree on certain things.

“We all work together and we are all very understanding of one another. ASPEN means to me to work together, find a supply chain, be open to ideas and find different ways to solve a problem,” said Ortega.

At Soldier Field, all the students were allowed to talk to the people that created the  challenges. The creators consisted of a Chief Financial Officer, Commissioner and CEO of Chicago Public Libraries, Founder and CEO of Uncharted Play, an activist,  an oceanographer,  Youth Empowered Solutions, and an explorer. CFO Daniel Rogers challenge was to increase financial literacy Brian Bannon, CEO of CPL challenged the teams to renovate a 21st century library. Jessica O. Matthews from Uncharted Play Challenged  students to  to renovate urban space areas.

“My favorite challenge was Daniel Rogers because I can relate to it and because my dad handles a lot of insurance. At my house financial literacy has been a big thing for my family,” said Tramil.

Towards the end of the event, there was  a book signing by Lewis and Aydin. Lewis has been an important icon in history since the Civil Rights Movement. During the dinner, there was a performance by violinist Lee England, Jr. He played classic songs as well as a mixture of others such as Hotline Bling by Drake. Then  Chance the Rapper spoke about how he is heavily involved in the community and trying to give back, as well as how he began his career when he started to go to YouMedia at the CPL and was able to record music.

The  day was filled with many great presenters that encouraged  the youth to do better. It was very empowering for the students to hear from  guest speakers that are important within society and want to help their community because they believe the youth is the future
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