UB Planning Students Win National APA Award For Project With Buffalo Schools

Partnership with LPCiminelli illuminates healthy school-healthy neighborhood links

Release Date: April 12, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Graduate Planning Student Association (GPSA) has received the 2010 award for Outstanding Planning Student Organization from the American Planning Association for a project that involved students from the Buffalo Public Schools in neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The award, which carries a $1,000 cash prize, will be presented to UB graduate student and GPSA President Kimberly Moore April 13 at the APA/AICP Annual Meeting and Leadership Honors program luncheon during the national APA conference in New Orleans.

The award is presented by the APA Student Representatives Council in several categories. UB won in the Community Outreach category for the project "Buffalo Urban Planners" conducted with LPCiminelli.

It assisted 7th- and 8th-grade students in PS 74 Hamlin Park School and PS 30 Frank A. Sedita Academy of the Buffalo Public Schools to develop neighborhood revitalization proposals grounded in their understanding of the link between the health of their schools and the health of their neighborhoods. The project also aimed to interest minority students in urban planning as an education and career option.

"Our graduate planning students are passionate about the field and the profession," says Niraj Verma, PhD, professor and chair of the UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

"The work with Buffalo Schools which led to the award exemplifies that spirit and it is fitting that the students and the GPSA are being recognized by the American Planning Association."

The Outstanding Planning Student Organization Awards are presented to winners of a binational competition among more than 70 schools in the US and Canada. They recognize student organizations involved in exciting and creative activities that enliven student life, contribute to their communities and provide enhanced educational experiences for the students.

The UB project team consisted of graduate students in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the UB School of Architecture and Planning who were involved in an internship program directed by Associate Professor Alfred Price.

The team included Moore, Chris Schuat, Eric Poniatowksi, Brian Kurtz, Jennyffer Ruiz, Colleen Erraihani, Mark Byrnes, Michael King and Bryan Hadley. They were led by Tyra Johnson, project manager for diversity and neighborhood redevelopment at LPCiminelli, the construction management company for the Buffalo Schools Project, where they interned.

"The project focused on a few things," Moore says, "but one thing we hoped for was to increase diversity in urban planning programs by encouraging civic engagement and involvement by some of the youngest stakeholders in our community.

"We began the program last summer, by meeting with school board officials and developing a curriculum. We began to meet with the students in the fall," she says, "to help students understand the components of a neighborhood and the history of the area in which their school is located.

"Then we urged them to consider how they might help to redevelop the area by initiating projects that could provoke the very changes they want to see," Moore says.

In December the students made presentations to local officials, teachers, school board members, local non-profits and community members, during which they explored changes they wanted to see in their neighborhood and discussed how they thought those changes could achieved.

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