NKAPC and Scott High School: Partners in Planning

NKAPC is involving area high school students in the development of Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. This is an innovative, forward-looking approach in the field of area planning, and NKAPC believes it is critical to the success of the plan. Dr. Brennan Sapp, Principal of Scott High School agrees. “These students will soon be fully functioning members of our community. They are going to be our leaders of tomorrow, so why not involve them now?”

As an important group of stakeholders in the community, the students participating in this project are creatively contributing to the development of the plan, partaking in interviews, group forums and collaborative learning in the classroom with their teachers and planning professionals. The aim of the forum is to find out more about how the students are living their lives today, learn more about their plans for the near future, and to be sure their input is included in the plan.

The program started last month with students from Scott High School. Their teacher, Jeff Jackson, is the faculty leader for Hanner’s Heroes, a student leadership and community engagement group for those students who want to make a difference in their community.

“This experience allows our students to interact as adults while still receiving high quality guidance from a master teacher like Mr. Jackson,” Sapp explained. “They will be much more knowledgeable and confident in similar situations in the future because of this program.”

During the first meeting at the high school, planning officials gave an educational program on planning and zoning issues, how the plan works in the real world, transportation logistics and a review of changes in our community from 1989 through today. Students were then asked to give their feedback using a web-based real-time polling tool.

James Fausz, AICP, and Ed Dietrich, AICP, planning professionals with NKAPC, facilitated the session and worked with students. “It was a great meeting,” explained Fausz. “The students are very open. They told us they want more intimate, walkable communities to live in that have a more fast-paced urban style of living. They really want to see smaller, locally-owned retail stores to shop at, unique, attractive architecture, convenient public transportation, and lots of things to do nearby.” When asked about the things they don’t like about their present-day community structure, they mostly agreed on one thing: there is nothing to do but live there. If someone wants to go out to eat, go to a park, or join friends for a cup of coffee, they have to get in their car and drive miles to do it.

The students learned a lot during the 90-minute sessions. “No one in the room knew what planning was when we first got started,” commented Dietrich. “But by the end of the session we were having a very engaging conversation about urban sprawl, quality of life, community engagement, and the things that need to be done to attract and keep young people here in our community.”

Sapp is very enthusiastic about these kinds of opportunities for his students. “This experience is an actual real-life experience that is not hypothetical or artificial. Students respond differently to real situations. They take things more seriously as they function as young adults, not as students.”

Jackson said, “Once the students realized that their thoughts and ideas were being taken serious, they began to flourish in this experience. Students are hardly ever given an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns in a venue that has an avenue for their thoughts and concerns to make an impact on future decisions made by lawmakers, that is why this opportunity is so special.”

Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director, says public forums are critical because they provide great opportunities for citizens to give their input to the plan. “Kenton County is going to change over the next 20 years; it’s one of those few guarantees of life,” he said. “What we as citizens need to do is help shape the change so it benefits the community’s overall quality of life. That’s what Direction 2030 is all about… reaching out and engaging citizens on how to shape the inevitable change that’s coming.”

Sapp said, “It takes many different groups working together to make good decisions for the future of our area. NKAPC is an essential member of Northern Kentucky. We need more experiences like the one they have provided for our students and our citizens. For too long, education has not been about real life. Direction 2030 is about real life.”