Y-PLAN (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now) is an award-winning educational strategy that empowers young people to tackle real-world problems in their communities through project-based civic learning experiences.
Y-PLAN originated in 1999 at UC Berkeley as part of a course taught by Deborah McKoy. Dozens of UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students, high school youth, teachers, and community partners have contributed in the years since to developing the Y-PLAN rigorous, five-step methodology.
Y-PLAN's success led to the founding of UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools (CC+S), Y-PLAN’s home today.
- Deborah McKoy, PhD, Executive Director and Founder
- Shirl Buss, PhD, Creative Director, Elementary Lead
- Amanda Eppley, MCP, Program Director
- Rachel Ann Cosca, MA, Operations Manager
- Carol Gelatt, MS, Operations Consultant
- Jonathan Lim-Breitbart, MIMS, Web Designer & Developer
- Myrna Ortiz, Y-PLAN Healthy Cities Coordinator
- Ciera Dudley, Y-PLAN NYC Coordinator
- Kate Selden, Y-PLAN NYC Coach + Researcher
- Blanca Gamez-Djokic, Y-PLAN Bay Area Coach + Researcher
- Cassandra Bayer, Y-PLAN Bay Area Coach + Researcher
- Marceline Graham, Selena Perez Tejeda, & Susana Lopez Alcala, Research + Communications Assistants
- Alainna Thomas, PhD, China Coordinator and Fellow
- Eva Jin, China Fellow
- Chikara Ushiki, Japan Fellow
Started in 1999 at University of California, Berkeley, Y-PLAN (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now) has become a unique national model for bringing applied, project-based learning into the classroom.
As students identify problems where they live and engage with civic leaders to fix these problems, they become more prepared for careers and college – as well as agents for social change in their communities.
Y-PLAN has engaged thousands of young people and dozens of schools, teachers, and civic partners across the United States and around the world. Learn where we’re currently working with schools and cities.
Y-PLAN in San Francisco
Students at McClymond's Educational Complex
Creating New Spaces: Youth and the Redevelopment of Their Communities
"Parisar Asha" means "Hope for the environment, from the environment". This short phrase is not only the name of the world renowned educational institute in Mumbai, India, but is also the inspiration behind the development of Y-PLAN. Founded by Gloria DeSouza, a legendary social entrepreneur and one of the first Ashoka Fellows, Parisar Asha sought to offer young people an alternative to rote education that too often confines thinking and learning to pure memorization, established by British colonial rule.
Parisar Asha provides meaningful and personally relevant education to Indian children, from the wealthier suburbs to destitute shantytowns. After working with Gloria in India the late 1980s, Deborah McKoy embarked on a decade of work, study, and research in cities and schools throughout the United States. Building on her experiences working with refugees in Brooklyn and youth in public housing throughout the country, Deborah sought to find a way to bring similarly transformative experiences to urban youth, their families, schools, and communities.
Social Enterprises for Learning (SEfL)
Deborah's path led her to the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education. Under the tutelage of Professor David Stern, her research focused on school-to-career educational programs, and ultimately led to the co-development of an educational methodology called Social Enterprise for Learning (SEfL). SEfLs are school-based, community-driven enterprises in which students identify a community need and work with local government and the community stakeholders to develop a product or specific service to address that need. SEfL was adopted very naturally by a range of career academies as a form of work-based learning.
For example, between 2003 and 2008, CC+S partnered with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the Bay Area Writing Project, and the Pearson Foundation to provide SEfL professional development and coaching to five comprehensive high schools reaching over 500 SFUSD high school students. SEfLs have been adopted in a wide range of ways - from developing a low-income tax clinic to creating a teen health web site. For more information, see SEfL Case Study Handbook and the 2010 article by McKoy, Stern and Bierbaum entitled "Social Enterprise for Learning: A Replicable Model of Service Learning and Civic Engagement".
In 1999, Deborah McKoy was invited to teach a course in the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning that built on a strong tradition of UC Berkeley students reaching outside the walls of the College of Environmental Design and into local communities and schools to work with young people through the Urban Land Institute's Urban Plan program. Building on lessons from Urban Plan and from her own SEfL research, Deborah created a new form of SEfL that focused on engaging young people and their civic partners in the art of placemaking; Y-PLAN was born!
With funding from the UC Links program (originally in the UC Office of the President, and since 2001 in the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education), Y-PLAN is now recognized both on-campus and throughout the community as a proven means of positive social change and educational transformation. Dozens of UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students, high school youth, teachers, and community partners have contributed to the evolution of this methodology. Y-PLAN inspired the founding of CC+S and remains the "heartbeat" of its work. In its constant evolution, Y-PLAN continues to serve as a powerful magnet in CC+S' ongoing efforts to promote social change through participatory planning and meaningful educational processes.
You see no limit. In class, you see a limit, you don’t want to go too far, you don’t want to overthink it. But with Y-PLAN, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. - Y-PLAN Student, Dallas
We are presenting, because as Richmond’s youth, we should have a say in this important issue. Since we are affected by the problem, we believe we should be part of the solution... We want to get involved in the changes, and be able to stay involved as change goes on to help improve our city. - Y-PLAN Student, Richmond High School
I learned the difference between equality and equity. I've also learned adults aren’t the only ones who can make a difference. Us teens, including freshmen, have the power to change and to improve our school and our community. - Y-PLAN Student
Y-PLAN provides New York City Department of Education an opportunity to engage our schools, students, industry partners and civic partners around the needs of our community. Y-PLAN empowers our students to utilize their academic knowledge to solve critical issues within their community. Y-PLAN is a social movement that is rooted in a systematic process to make our cities better! - Tara Bellevue, New York City Director of Academies
In situations where people care about the students, and their thoughts have merit, and people ask them to justify why it makes sense, you start to fight for your ideas. As opposed to using your fist, [you] have to use your intellect, you have to use your research skills, and then you have to be able to verbalize it. All those things are helping our kids. - Y-PLAN Instructor, Detroit
Y-PLAN students are adding tremendous value to the work we’re doing at HUD. They’re demonstrating that young people don’t have to accept the common view that they are just leaders of tomorrow. They are also leaders of today. - Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary
Y-PLAN is a great example of how government agencies like AC Transit can encourage civic participation among young people and their families. The Y-PLAN exposes young people and adults to a variety of real world problems, perspectives... It’s very important that we have this, because the decisions that we make today will alter the lives of the young people, and quite frankly some of us older folks. - David Armijo, General Manager, AC Transit
The Common Core in Action! Our students loved this experience. It began with an idea and continues to grow into great journey of learning, sharing and caring. I am smiling out loud and I hope you will too. Please come by and see what all of our students are capable of. Job well done! - Y-PLAN Principal, San Francisco
Y-PLAN turns schools inside out; communities become a text for learning and students become agents of social change. - Y-PLAN Educational Leader
There’s just so much work that goes into it, you actually get to work with other people that have their own perspectives, and people who live in different areas. It makes it even more fun to work. - Y-PLAN Student, Dallas
We have a responsibility…now, it’s not like we are obligated to do it, but you know, we’re interested, it makes us want to do more… - Y-PLAN Student, New Orleans
To see Y-PLAN’s impact on students working through critical issues that take on a force of positive change is inspiring and drives my motivation to continue working with these schools, and to participate in the conversation with those involved or anyone willing to listen. I am very happy to share in this work. - Evelyn Davila, NYC National Academy Foundation Program Coordinator
Y-PLAN isn’t just any type of project. I refer to it as a ‘Big Time Project,’ because it was hands down into work and research. We were able to see the outcomes and impact Y-PLAN can make. We really made something that could potentially inspire architects to create something that would have an everlasting impact on the community. - Y-PLAN Student, Cesar Chavez Capitol Hill
It’s so great to have Y-PLAN in your life because you get to do those things that you never knew were there. You become so open. It’s so amazing to be involved. I take so much pride in it. - Y-PLAN Student, Dallas
One important thing I learned during the Y-PLAN was how to be a good team-member. I learned how to listen to other people’s thoughts and how other people’s opinions matter. As a result of the Y-PLAN I pay more attention to my teacher and as a learner, I’m open to criticism and I can learn how to add more to whatever I am doing. - Y-PLAN Student, New Orleans
Y-PLAN gives me new avenues to make my projects more valuable to my students and community. It’s really about bringing community leaders into the class and effecting real change. - Andrew Woodbridge, Y-PLAN Instructor, Queens
I want to encourage you to use Y-PLAN as an opportunity to unleash your imaginations and to empower yourselves to become decision-makers in your own neighborhoods. Because as that happens, things will change. - Dr. Pedro Noguera
Y-PLAN is a two-way street for education. First, it allows young people to get exposed to different kinds of career paths, and different kinds of problems in the real world, and to think about professional and practical ways to solve those problems. But it’s also a way for government staff to think about different ways to engage the community, and to reflect on what are more effective ways of engaging people who traditionally have not been part of the conversation. - Stephen Newhouse, AC Transit
With Y-PLAN, it’s different because we’re part of what’s going on in the city. We had to work on communicating our vision to our client. - Y-PLAN Student, Washington, DC