This past February, the Center for Cities + Schools (CC+S) hosted the 2019 Symposium: The Power of Civic Learning for Resilient Cities at UC Berkeley in response to the 2017-2018 Y-PLAN Resilient by Design Youth Challenge. Over eighty civic leaders from around the Bay Area region came together to reflect on last year’s Youth Challenge where more than 800 young people developed proposals for a climate resilient Bay Area. This Symposium celebrated youth-generated proposals and highlighted that young people’s existing resilience within their communities is a crucial starting point for adapting to climate change.
In her welcoming remarks, Dean Prudence Carter of the Graduate School of Education urged the gathered civic leaders to listen deeply and fully to young people: “When I see what’s happening with Y-PLAN… young people are working, articulating, and telling us what needs to be done and if we don’t listen, it’s not their fault. This is on us.”
The Symposium sought to lift up what young people are teaching us about our cities across four areas of focus: housing, transportation, schools, and public space. Civic leaders and educators from Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, San Rafael, and East Palo Alto shared what they learned from the Y-PLAN Student Scholars during the Youth Challenge as well as how the Youth Challenge has impacted their work since.
For Pepe Gonzalez, Principal at Laurel Dell Elementary School, participating in Y-PLAN projects has allowed his students to be leaders in changing the narrative of what it means to be low-income youth of color in Marin County: “As educators, we need to make sure we value [their lived experience], that we give kids the tools and connections, and that we continue to build these bridges [to the community and city], so that our students can continue to thrive.”
Y-PLAN Student Scholar panelists described how their lived experience contributed to the development of their final proposals, highlighting the important relationship between lived experience and professional practice when planning a resilient region for and with young people (see proposal highlights for examples). Lauren, a senior at Oakland’s Skyline High School, talked about the limited public transportation options at her high school: “Skyline HS is located in the Oakland Hills which is so far away from where most of us live. It’s hard to get up there... they were going to take away our buses which caused chaos and confusion... but we [the students] fought so hard to keep our buses.”
The Symposium reflected the growing community of practice CC+S is fostering through Y-PLAN partnerships between students, educators, and civic leaders. Dr. LaRue Moore, Information Technology Academy Lead at Kennedy High School in Richmond, summed up the importance and delicate relationships between young people and adults: “Our students need the opportunity to speak and we as adults... need to take the time and not wait for them to say it the way we want to hear it but let them say it the way they can say it.”
To learn more about the Symposium, download our Symposium Highlights handout.