Feb. 15, UW Tacoma’s urban studies department hosted their fifth annual Urban Studies forum at William Philip Hall from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The forum is an annual event held at UWT that is free and open to the public.
The 2018 forum’s theme was Creating Youth Friendly Cities. An assemblage of faculty, practitioners and researchers discussed how youth relate to their cities and how cities can better serve the next generation.
The program began with an introduction of the topic and agenda of the forum, led by Ali Modarres, professor and director of urban studies at UWT.
The first session was a panel of students from high schools in the Tacoma region who are members of Youth Leading Change — an initiative in schools concerned with safe streets.
The students reflected on their life experiences in the Tacoma community, as well as what it means to be youth-friendly. Speaking on both positive and negative aspects of South Sound cities.
Later into the forum was a keynote on “Making Space for and with Children and Youth” by Dr. Stuart C. Aitken, who is a professor and academic researcher interested in child rights and critical social theory. Aitken discussed the safety needed for children to fully belong within public spaces and how children must be valued in societies in order for them to reach their full potential.
“What happens if we create a safe place for children so that they can become something different?” Aitken asked. “I guarantee if we give them the power to become something other than us we will be surprised because we will get a better world.”
Session two of the forum was a panel about the South Sound community’s youth-serving institutions’ initiatives, challenges and opportunities. The panel included community actors from Metro Parks, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Oasis Youth Center, Tacoma Pierce County Health Department and the deputy Superintendent of Tacoma schools.
The community members discussed innovative programs, projects and policies that play roles in advancing youth development in the South Sound region.
Moderator and associate professor of urban studies Matthew Kelly addressed the panel with questions, such as “what are some of the key insights that as an agency you can take away from the student feedback?”
Tanya Durand, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma said that she was pleasantly surprised by the students’ responses to question on what makes city feel safe for them.
“… For them to be so focused on relationships, it warmed my heart and made it easier to act upon because they are choices we can all make every day. We don’t need somebody at city hall to figure that out.”
Durand spoke to the audience on how to enact change in the community in regards to the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, explaining that it is important to make sure “the museum is accessible as possible to all” and to create “more spaces where families can congregate.”
After the second session, the forum broke for one hour so everyone could enjoy the provided lunch. When lunch was over, Modarres, led in wrapping up the forum.
Moddarres pointed out that this is an ongoing discussion about how children are served in the community and how to include youth in broader discussions on urbanization and community planning.
There will be a follow up event held at William Philip Hall April 12 from 8 a.m. to noon. This symposium on our youngest citizens is in collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma and will explore common values and practices regarding childhood in the community context.
To register for the follow up event, visit:
Alyssa majors in urban studies and community development. She is interested in and concerned about issues in Tacoma that impact the community. She is obsessed with all things chocolate and piggies.