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NAACP’s ACT-SO Sustainable Building Intensive and UrbanPlan Host Inaugural Workshop
On March 13-14, 2021, ULI Washington and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted the inaugural UrbanPlan workshop for high school students participating in the NAACP’s Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) Sustainable Building Intensive. The brainchild of ULI Washington Steering Committee members Michelle Chang and Samia Byrd, and Mandy Lee, Program Manager for Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector at NAACP, the workshop introduced high school students from across the country to the forces that shape urban development as well as career opportunities in real estate.
Sixteen students participated in the workshop. The students did not know each other beforehand, yet quickly coalesced into teams to prepare competing bids to revitalize the fictional Elmwood district. Four students from ULI Washington’s region — two from Edison High School in Silver Spring, MD and two from Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, VA — were among those on the winning team.
In a first for UrbanPlan, each participant was accompanied by an adult mentor from their local NAACP chapter. While the student teams worked in breakout rooms to develop their plans to revitalize the fictional district of Elmwood, the mentors met informally with representatives from the NAACP and ULI for lively discussions about topics such as building a pipeline of diverse talent into the real estate industry, promoting equitable development practices, and educating youth about sustainable building.
The workshop culminated in a career panel featuring land use professionals from the students’ home districts, including ULI Washington’s own Adam Weers and Samia Byrd. The panel was student-moderated and addressed questions submitted in advance by the student participants. Topics ranged from the relative merits of various sustainable building materials to how historic discriminatory practices influence the panelists’ approach to development today.
ULI Washington UrbanPlan Impact Partners Donohoe, Dewberry and US Bank, as well as ULI’s national UrbanPlan program, provided crucial funding for the workshop. ULI Chicago, ULI Dallas-Fort Worth, ULI New Mexico, ULI Sacramento and ULI Virginia pitched in by helping to recruit volunteers and panelists and provide continuing engagement opportunities for the students in their regions. And like all UrbanPlan programs, the workshop would not have been possible without the many member volunteers who worked with the students: Team Advisors Bridget Obikoya, Bianca Cole, Kay Pierson and Nkosi Yearwood; Facilitators Noura Estatie, Kendra Wiley, Ivy Thompson, Don Zeigler, Andrea Wise, and Paul Bernard; and City Council Members Adam Weers, Scott Willis, Omari Davis and Yolanda Jackson.