Y-PLAN Kennedy High Student Presentations


Last Tuesday, members of Resilient by Design staff and Design Teams headed to Richmond to attend the final student presentations from Kennedy High School students involved in Y-PLAN’s Resilient by Design Youth Challenge. An initiative of UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools (C+CS), Y-PLAN engages youth with experts and local stakeholders to co-design innovative and implementable solutions.

This semester, Kennedy High School students were involved in their own Resilient by Design challenge. Students attended and spoke at the Collaborative Research Phase’s Challenge Kickoff in Richmond this past September.

Students also took a field trip to Point Molate in Richmond as a case study for a site vulnerable to sea level rise and then visited The Home Team at lead firm Mithun’s office in San Francisco. Design Team members worked with students to think through potential design ideas for Point Molate and the larger Richmond shoreline.

Building on these experiences, students developed the following areas of focus to study for their final presentations:

  • (1) using social media as a design intervention
  • (2) developing a website to share information about sea level rise and climate resilience
  • (3) using sea level rise sensors to monitor current and long-term changes, and
  • (4) surveying local residents on how to create a more resilient and accessible Point Molate.

As the final presentation date neared, Resilient by Design staff helped students refine their presentations and build models. Dr. Moore from the ITA Academy at Kennedy High began each class with his guiding mantra, asking students to repeat after him-

“I’m good at what I do
I learn something everyday
I’m a professional”

Students in the classroom clearly understood the complexities of resilience and how resilience relates to sea level rise and climate change. Their projects centered around many of the same questions the Design Team cohort has been wrestling with -

How do we assess sea level rise impacts?
How do community members perceive these threats?
How do we communicate information and raise awareness about sea level rise?

On the day of the final presentations, Dr. Moore welcomed the assembled professionals to Kennedy High School, starting again by asking the 12th Grade student presenters to repeat their guiding mantra. Dr. Moore explained that Y-PLAN has become a crucial program for ITA students to gain real-world experience, build professional skills, and receive mentorship from local experts.

A student's poem on growing up in Richmond was read aloud:


"Gang violent, police brutal, and dark city
I'm from Richmond, California not Virginia
I come from a place where my beautiful black people have no knowledge of their own melanin
A school where dark skin is unattractive, stupid, low-rated, and unnoticed
But I am working to change where I'm from
I am an African American, black and Creole phenomenal woman
I am the daughter of a successful and inspirational woman
I am a leader in my community that is making change for our people
I come from driven-minded people that care for their city." 

Another 12th Grader Krisna introduced the project presentation cohort and explained what resilience means to them: “resiliency speaks to the heart of the people. It’s how we rise up, how we get back up from whatever situation we are in.”

The invited guests then heard from students on their research and ideas for a more resilient Richmond. Along with Resilient by Design staff, Tom Leader (TLS Studio, Common Ground), Pete Swearengen (Hassell+), and Sandy Mendler (Mithun, The Home Team) from our Design Team cohort reviewed presentations and heard from students on their lived experience growing up in Richmond and how sea level rise will impact their home. Students made models to support their posters and show their ideas for a more resilient Point Molate and Richmond.

Throughout the afternoon, ITA 10th grade classes cycled through the library to view and learn from their fellow students’ presentations and models. Each time, their teacher Dr. Moore welcomed them into the space with his guiding mantra, asking them to repeat after him:

“I’m good at what I do
I learn something everyday
I’m a professional”

These students are clearly creating a more resilient future for themselves and for our bay one tweet, survey, sensor, and mantra at a time.

Thank you Y-PLAN for supporting youth engagement with planners and local government staff on real world issues around the Bay Area. Huge thank you to the Kennedy High students for sharing your research and ideas for creating a more climate resilient Richmond. We are extremely proud of all the work you've put into your presentations and are excited to continue working with you and other Y-PLAN classrooms around the bay this winter and spring.

CC+S will build on our recent Y-PLAN Resilience work and develop an aligned Youth Resilience Challenge aimed at engaging 300 – 500 high school students in being Resilient by Design.