How do you engage young people in the adult world of government, planning and transportation?
Give a middle school student construction paper and ask her to design a better city, inspire students through community service and art, and introduce a former mayor to an 11-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a mayor himself.
The short answer is that you get them involved. Each year the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) welcomes young people into their corporate offices. The taupe walls and brick exterior may look intimidating to a busload of local students, but once inside, they are welcomed by fun, engaging employees eager to inspire them to take up careers that drive our local communities.
Each year three programs introduce students to the world of work, including planning, government, and transportation.
Five years ago the marketing department at NCTCOG decided to spruce up its annual report with student art. Each year local middle school students are presented a theme — such as transportation safety or the future of transit — then submit their artistic rendition. The winning piece is then used to design the entire report. Once the selected piece is chosen, the student artist is celebrated by our Director of Transportation Michael Morris at the local school board meeting.
Presenting the award to Tison Middle School student Erin Logan. Courtesy Weatherford Independent School District.
The Richard Greene Scholars program provides meaningful opportunities for students in the Arlington, Texas, school district to demonstrate and grow their leadership skills.
NCTCOG is one of several business locations that welcomes high school seniors for an educational internship to encourage their interest in leadership through community service as part of receiving a college scholarship. The program was created 20 years ago by the Texas Rangers baseball team to honor former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene. More than just a college scholarship, this program provides students with mentors and coaching while sparking their interest in government, planning, and transportation.
The Vital Link Program is offered to Fort Worth, Texas, middle school students interested in connecting what is learned in the classroom to what is needed in the workplace.
As middle school students they are discerning their interests, passions and direction in life. This weeklong program shows how their school-based experience with math, history, teamwork and communication is vital to success in today’s work environment. During their summer break, these eager students are mentored by NCTCOG employees who expose them to a variety of programs including transportation planning, staff meetings, human resources, and government relations.
These programs bring students to the NCTCOG and help foster an interest in planning. Students learn what it takes to design a community, manage government funds, and work with citizens to improve neighborhoods. They learn everything from how a bus route is planned to how to shake the hands of government officials. Overall, the NCTCOG’s enthusiastic engagement of youth helps us do a better job because we encourage their future involvement in improving, planning, and participating in their communities.
North Central Texas Council of Governments in Arlington, Texas, is a voluntary association of cities, counties, and special districts established in 1966 to assist local governments plan for common needs, cooperate for mutual benefit, and coordinate funding and resources. Serving a 16-county region around the Dallas and Fort Worth area, NCTCOG helps local governments improve their capability to serve their citizens by defining regional issues, problems and opportunities; by setting priorities and devising polices, plans, and programs to deal with them; and by achieving efficient and effective action on area wide matters through communication, coordination, and cooperation.
Progress North Texas 2016 student art
Richard Greene Scholars Program
Vital Link Program
Every day, young people encounter communities issues and even plan. The Kids' Planning Toolbox highlights K-12 students who engage in planning in their community and the teachers and planners who create these opportunities. Be inspired to think about how you can help kids become the planners of tomorrow.
If you have an idea or are interested in writing an article for the Kids' Planning Toolbox, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The article can report on young people learning about communities and planning or youth engagement with the issues planning addresses (environment, transportation, community organization, etc.).
About the Author
Amy Wasielewski is a transportation planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Top image: Detail of cover artwork from the NCTCOG 2016 annual report, Making Transportation Safer for You. First place drawing by Erin Logan of Tison Middle School.