Engaging Young People & Schools in Community Planning: An alternative strategy for urban education reform & community development
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The AICP Code of Ethics states a professional responsibility to “give people the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the development of plans and programs that may affect them.” Planning decisions impact young people’s opportunities and life chances, yet they are generally excluded from the community planning process despite their capacity to contribute in meaningful ways. The purpose of this project is to examine why young people should participate in community planning and suggest how schools may serve as vehicles to move youth participation from the novel exception, to an institutionalized part of the planning process. School-based youth participation presents an opportunity to recognize that the goals of planning and education are interrelated. For example, how can we begin to discuss sustainable economic development in a city like Detroit without addressing the quality of urban education, when 1.2% of graduating seniors are college ready, and 47% graduate from high school? What communities and schools often fail to see is that their fates are inextricably linked. As planners lament the “brain drain” and an ill-equipped workforce, educators struggle as students graduate (or don’t) from inner city schools unprepared for college or career. This cycle continues as cities and schools try to solve these issues in isolation. Through case study research of Y-PLAN projects in Detroit, MI and Richmond, CA, this study builds on a growing body of research that recognizes the importance of public schools and student participation for city planning. Findings suggest that school-based participation of young people in the planning process produces positive outcomes for students, professionals, and communities, and may serve as a catalyst for parent engagement by virtue of their children’s participation. Despite these benefits, the long-term impacts of youth-participation have yet to be quantified, and the involvement of young people and schools remains the exception in planning practice.