My Community, My Vision
Interview with Carmen Lethig, AICP, IHCDA Placemaking Manager
By: Aletha Dunston, AICP, APA-IN Central Representative
What are the goals of My Community, My Vision?
My Community, My Vision (MCMV) encourages high school students throughout Indiana to shape their community’s future while being civically involved through a yearlong community planning process. By creating a youth-led community vision plan, the program hopes to inspire youth to return to or stay in their hometowns.
How was the program started?
MCMV was created through a partnership between IHCDA and Ball State University (BSU). Both IHCDA and BSU recognize that Indiana is facing a major dilemma; young people, particularly those who are college educated, are leaving the state. According to a 2012 study conducted by Indiana University, 50% of students who attend IU will leave the state after graduation. The MCMV program was created as an attempt to inspire youth to stay in Indiana by involving them in community planning processes and connecting them to their local elected officials. Through these efforts, the program hopes to show students that they can have a profound impact in shaping their communities.
What is the history of the program?
Eleven community vision plans have been created through the MCMV program. Every plan created is unique to the community and the students involved. Groups explore and celebrate the positive assets in their communities while recognizing the major hurdles facing their hometowns. Students have the opportunity to critically think about current community conditions, to formulate an action plan, and are tasked with identifying partners, resources, and funding. The Cities of Rushville and Muncie officially adopted their youth-driven plans. The group from Anderson raised approximately $4,000 in grant funding and in-kind donations to implement a community garden and beautification project. Students from all of the involved communities have met with their local elected officials, including local, county and state representatives.
Of course, only time will tell if MCMV has achieved its initial goal of inspiring high school students to stay in their hometowns for the long-term. But I think the real impact of MCMV is the exposure both the high school and graduate students get to the real world of civic engagement. It has proved to be a unique and rewarding way to teach about urban planning, community development, politics, philanthropy and collaboration.
How does a community apply?
To apply high school student groups are invited to submit essays outlining their ideas for enhancing the quality of life in their hometowns. Up to five student groups are chosen to participate in the program each school year based on the essay applications. The groups each receive $500 and are paired with a BSU Urban Planning graduate or an upper-level undergraduate student. The BSU students are mentors to the high school groups throughout the September to April program year. The BSU mentor leads meetings with the high school groups to teach about urban planning, economic development, and the functions of local government. The mentor facilitates planning exercises, like SWOT analyses and asset mapping, to help the high school students brainstorm ideas for their hometowns. The mentor then creates a planning document based on the high school students’ ideas. During this process, at least four statewide meetings are hosted every year, giving students an opportunity to learn from their peers from different communities around the state. In the spring, the student groups present their final plans to IHCDA, BSU, the Indiana Lieutenant Governor and local elected officials.
Who should a community contact with questions?
To learn more about the My Community, My Vision program feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or take a look at our page http://www.in.gov/myihcda/mcmv.htm. We are accepting applications for the upcoming school year until September 9, 2016.