Empowering Youth, Empowering Communities

An innovative program out of UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools brings planners to the classroom and gives students a seat at the table.

youth, schools, community engagement, equity, leadership


John Francis


David Witham


Christina Warhola

“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”


The old adage holds as much today as ever. But what if we can help provide youth the agency to become TODAY’S community leaders? At WRT, we believe the community planning process should include participants at all life stages—from 8 to 80—and recently teamed up with UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools (CC&S) and the City of Richmond, CA, to involve youth as critical partners in creating a district Transportation Connectivity Plan.

CC&S’s innovative approach to empowering youth centers on the Y-PLAN (Youth — Plan, Learn, Act, Now) Program, which engages kids and teens in real local planning and design projects in their communities. Alongside Y-PLAN’s talented planner/educators, WRT planners helped mentor Richmond High School sophomores and 

scaffold their understanding of what transportation access means to them and their community. The students then played an integral role in the planning team’s work by identifying challenges and opportunities, administering a transportation preference survey to over 500 community members, and devising their own recommendations for improving connectivity in Richmond. With a full-fledged stake in the planning process itself, students developed career skills, became active participants in the visioning process, and established themselves as leading voices in their community. For the community it’s a win-win—a rising generation of civic-minded youth leaders and a unique perspective on planning issues that can only come from the youngest among us.