“Let’s re-imagine Boston High Schools. What if there were no walls? What could the high school experience look like?” queried Nikki Korn, Principal of Cause Consulting, to the audience at the fifth annual Youth Designers Take Action Competition. Nikki’s question, the prompt for the twelve Youth Designers competing in the 2015 poster and PSA design competition, echoes a local and national dialogue around high school education.

The conversation, started by President Obama’s K-12 Education Goals for 2020, extended to the city of Boston by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s High School Redesign initiative. The High School Redesign seeks input from all local stakeholders to confront this real-world challenge and shape the vision for a “more rigorous, more relevant and more modern high school learning environment.”


On August 20th, 2015, Youth Design—a program connecting Boston youth with the creative profession—proudly announced Aedan Clark the winner of the 2015 Youth Designers Take Action Competition at their year-end showcase. His stunning design and powerful call-to-action to “Bring Art to Boston Public Schools” targeted school administrators.

“We need more training for young creative people in schools to develop their vision,” said Aedan Clark. Aedan’s inspiration came from a George Washington Carver quote, “Where there is no vision there is no hope.”

Looking at the room full of compelling posters and hopeful young designers, special guest and Boston’s Chief of Education, Rahn Dorsey, explained that there was no single winner in this years’ competition. He argued that the iconography, the messages the posters depicted and the experience to create them accumulated into something bigger than simply a winner of a PSA design contest. Dorsey committed to incorporating the designs and the students voices in his ongoing redesign efforts for Boston Public High Schools.


A month earlier, during a workshop facilitated by the Cause Consulting team and attended by Rahn Dorsey, youth designers had utilized design thinking to ideate and visualize what Boston High Schools could look like.

They discussed:

  • What if teachers could “speak our language” and we could use technology in a “good way” to expand the knowledge of the classroom?
  • What if the foodie town of Boston could provide culinary experiences for students, quality food options in the cafeteria, and opportunities to explore other cultures through food?
  • What if we could “utilize social media to grab administrators’ attention” and ask for design classes, professional connections, and colorful school grounds?
  • What if we could bridge the gap between university and high school students and thereby lessen the fear and mystery of college?

“This dialogue is what we’ve been trying to get at,” responded Dorsey. Just a month later at the poster showcase, Dorsey continued his praise to the students, “you’ve been a part of an experience that looks like what education is going to look like in Boston High Schools in the future.”

Every element of high school needs to look at the student and we must move towards expanding learning experiences so that every student is prepared for their future. “If learning isn’t asking you to think critically about the world you live in then we aren’t succeeding” said Dorsey.


Click here to view all of the designs from Youth Designers Take Action 2015 and see below for the top three winners:

1st place, Aedan Clark:

2nd place, Daniel Smelansky:


3rd place, Tara Rahman:


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