Y-PLAN Client, Stephen Newhouse of AC Transit highlights the value-add that Y-PLAN brought to his work and community.
This fall, AC Transit had the pleasure of planning future transportation service improvements with the help of MetWest High School students participating in the Y-PLAN program. Forty-one 11th grade students examined bus routes in their neighborhoods, surveyed passengers, considered trade-offs, and developed recommendations to improve service. [s1] Y-PLAN demonstrates how government agencies like AC Transit can encourage civic participation among young people and their families. Reflecting upon my experience with Y-PLAN, three key benefits stand out.
Two-way Street for Education
Y-PLAN is a two-way street for education. First, Y-PLAN enables young people to view real-world challenges through a professional lens. Students benefit from exposure to new career paths, cooperative dialog, and problem-solving techniques. The challenges are familiar—even threadbare. But for many students, Y-PLAN is their first exposure to the tools necessary to effect change. With these resources and support, young people can begin thinking about professional and practical ways to address community concerns. Second, Y-PLAN is a way for public agencies view planning and communications through a community lens. Breaking down industry jargon and developing analogies for students greatly improved my communication with the general public at later workshops. Hands-on activities developed for students proved to be useful exercises with a general audience. The result was more positive reception and productive conversation.
Y-PLAN extends beyond the classroom. When young people are excited about a project, they share information with their friends and families. Their excitement becomes contagious. This multiplier effect is especially valuable in non-English speaking communities[s2] . Young people are often the linguistic conduit between their families and officials. By engaging students in the planning process, agencies are better able to engage the family as a whole. The result is broader community involvement and investment in outcomes.
Reset and Refresh
Finally, working with young people through the Y-PLAN program was a great reminder of my purpose. During a period of many long days and late nights in the office, I found myself re-energized after a morning in the classroom. Students’ curiosity, creativity and candor allowed me to periodically reset and refresh my priorities as a public servant. For these reasons and many more, I am appreciative to the Y-PLAN team, the educators, and the students.
Stephen Newhouse is a Transportation Planner in the Service Development and Planning division at AC Transit
The Y-PLAN (Youth—Plan, Learn, Act, Now) is an award-winning interdisciplinary course where students in urban planning, design, education, and other related disciplines learn how to engage youth as genuine stakeholders and participants in local city planning/community development projects.