Why I Became a Planner

by Tanya Zwahlen

Last Wednesday, I received an email from my eight year old son, Christian Hartley. I didn’t know he had an email address, but apparently he does. He and his friends in the Academic Challenge and Enrichment (ACE) program at Rochester City School #12 wanted me to come into their class and talk about being a city planner.

I wrote right back and said yes, yes, yes! His teacher, Ms. Coniglio, and I scheduled a time.

This morning, I walked in to 13 bright-eyed students who each had a list of questions for me. I shared some pictures, talked about different methods of public engagement, asked them about their favorite and not-so-favorite public spaces, and answered their questions.

We also did a quick cardstorming activity on the subject of how to make their (already nice) school playground better. In case you are wondering, they want a pool, a foam pit, and a trampoline, among other things.

The hour went by quickly and I hated to leave. It was hands down the best part of my week. The students were so curious and enthusiastic, and they had great ideas to share. It helped remind me why I love my job so much. I get a lot of fulfillment out of engaging people, including and especially youth, in discussions about the future of their communities. ​

Thankfully, my next public meeting is Monday night in Jamestown, so it won’t be long before I have the opportunity to talk with more people. Hopefully, there will be some kids there…

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