The Empowerment Congress’ Environmental Committee organized the Youth Summit at the 24th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit on Saturday, January 16, 2016.

DFA_4106“The Case for Open Space” was an interactive workshop designed for youth on the need and opportunities for parks and recreational spaces in urban Los Angeles. 85 young adults from 8 organizations participated in the event at the University of Southern California, which kicked off with a keynote from D’artganan Scorza of the Social Justice Learning Institute on the power and importance of getting involved in changing the space around us.

DFA_4099Urban planner James Rojas then led a hands-on activity called “Place It!” where each participant built their ideal park out of small objects. Many displays featured gardens and lush green spaces, places for families to walk and play, community centers, and many features.  To connect students with current engagement efforts, Rita Robinson with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation led an activity similar to a community meeting for the Countywide Parks Needs Assessment.  Participants went through information and maps from their neighborhoods, and ranked their top priorities for parks.  The top ideas included: community gardens, sports fields, safety features, libraries, water features, dog parks, picnic areas, accessibility features, bike paths, shade during the day, lighting at night, and community rooms. The ideas will be passed along to County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and city officials.

Comments from Mr. Rojas help to summarize the day:

“From the youth comments, it was transformative for them. We were able to tap into knowledge that they didn’t even know they had!  This gives them a new way of seeing and articulating their community needs, challenges, and opportunities from the built environment they experience every day. This empowers them to get involved, engage and become the future leaders in their community.”

For more 24th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit photos and workshop recaps, please click here.