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Civic Impact

Conference engages high-school students in urban planning issues

When Ryan Lo, a graduate student at McGill University’s School of Urban Planning, was deciding on what to do for his master’s research project, he knew he didn’t want to write a conventional paper.
Instead, he’s organizing a conference, called Tomorrow Starts Today, to educate and engage high-school students on urban planning issues.
Lo came up with the idea when he was volunteering with a youth leadership program. As a planner, he realized that young people didn’t have much exposure to urban planning in conventional school curriculum, even though the quality of urban planning affects their lives as much as anybody’s.
“The conference has a two-fold purpose—to educate young people about planning, urban design and public engagement, and to give them tangible ways to participate so they have the knowledge and the language to communicate and participate,” says Lo, who is hosting the conference at Ryerson University since he’s originally from the GTA and has connections here. “Often only adults or university students are targeted in engagement. High-school students may not be technically voters, but they’re still part of the community.”
Make that a three-fold purpose. Lo is also hoping to better learn how to present planning issues to young people and capture their contributions. “The research outcome is to have a report and some sort of conference toolkit. What went well, what are some of the ways that are effective in getting youth to listen and take action? Is it an interactive hands-on activity or a powerful speech? What drives their passion? I would like to share that research with the city.”
With 75 spots for participants and another 25 speakers, panelists and volunteers, Lo expects about a 100 people to show up this weekend.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ryan Lo
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