This past Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, high school students from five different communities around Indiana (Crawfordsville, Fort Wayne, Greenfield, Greensburg, and Shelbyville) were able to come together in Indianapolis at the Platform and present youth-driven plans for their communities. These youth groups were all a part of the My Community, My Vision program under the office of the Lieutenant Governor and in collaboration with the Ball State University Urban Planning Department and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
These plans were the culmination of a roughly seven-month long planning process these high school students embarked upon with the assistance of a Ball State urban planning graduate or upper level undergraduate student and local government officials as well as advisors at the students’ high schools. The process included introducing the high school students to what urban planning is, how it is used, and what the outcomes of the process are. The students then studied their hometowns (listed above) and all performed a SWOT-A analysis which inventories the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a community and the students’ Aspirations for their hometown. This helped them see clearly what they like about their community and what they wish would change and then lead them into thinking about how to change those things.
Many of the groups also surveyed other students in their high schools to see what those students thought about their community and if they were planning on returning after they graduate high school or college. Using this information and guidance from their Ball State mentors, local government officials, and community organizations, the groups were able to come up with initiatives they would want to see implemented in their hometowns. These would ideally attract them and other students like them back to these smaller Indiana communities after they get their education to work, start businesses, and begin their careers and/or families.
A common thread running through all 5 plans from these similar yet distinct communities was placemaking. Each plan stressed the importance of making these communities a place and having specific places within each community which will help attract these students back in a few years.
Some of the examples of these placemaking initiatives from each community include:
- Gateway signage welcoming people to the city
- Businesses open later than 5 pm in the downtown
- A downtown park which is a place for pop-up activities throughout the year
- A pedestrian bridge connecting two parks on the south side of the city
- An open air market
- Redevelopment of the old GE Campus including mixed-use with retail, park space, and entertainment attractions
Greenfield (plan focused on art)
- A coffee shop in downtown Greenfield
- Murals on downtown buildings created by high school students
- Public space used as places for artists to temporarily work
- Student art studios or lab spaces scattered throughout the community
Greensburg (plan focused on agriculture)
- A learning center at the high school for students interested in agriculture
- Downtown buildings used to showcase agricultural heritage
- Sidewalks and an art bicycle trail between the downtown and the fair grounds
- Public art to catalyze placemaking in the downtown
- Food vendors and pop-up programs
- A student run business
- A community garden
All of these initiatives were decided upon by high school students who did not have backgrounds in planning or placemaking but what they ended up with was exactly that—initiatives which are unique enough that, once implemented, they would encourage them and their peers to come back to their hometown after they graduate. This program and its outcomes can help inform these communities’ future plans and how they go about involving the youth in the planning process from here on out as well as influencing what happens at a city and state level.
This is the third year for the My Community, My Vision program and we are looking forward to the fourth year and what it will hold. The plans are not up on the My Community, My Vision page on the IHCDA website yet but will be shortly, so keep your eyes out for those additions!
For any other questions, please send an email to McMv@ihcda.in.gov
Main Photo Source: My Community, My Vision