Youth in Planning (YIP) 

Educating Youth about the Importance of Planning: A Case Study of Edgewood, WA’s Efforts by Evan Hietpas

Youth can provide unique and fresh voices to the dialogue about creating great places, yet they are often overlooked when communities undertake visioning and planning work about their futures. That’s where the APA-WA Chapter’s Youth in Planning (YIP) Task Force comes in!

The YIP Task Force aims to raise youth awareness of the importance of their voice to help inform our future and to provide resources for teachers, planners, and public officials to engage youth in planning processes that will generate lasting value. To help meet its objectives, the Task Force commissioned Washington, By and By, an educational graphic novel about community planning that illustrates how empowered teens can engage and shape the future of our state.

A good example of a Washington city's successfully engaging in its youth is the educational program recently established by the city of Edgewood.


The Edgewood Experience

In 2021, Edgewood was the second fastest-growing city in the Puget Sound Region, adding 780 residents. This means that the time to plan for the future is now. The Edgewood Experience youth engagement program allows those who have the most at stake in the future to help shape it.

The Edgewood Experience is an immersive educational program for local high school students. The program was founded in 2021 as a six-week program that takes place in July and August. Five students spend six hours at City Hall three days per week and are compensated for their time as limited-term employees with the City of Edgewood. In the program, students work with all of the staff through a strategic sequence of activities, presentations, and discussions. The students learn about the services that municipalities provide, as well as the job responsibilities of each City staff member, including the Planning Division. Some of the topics and activities addressed by Edgewood’s Planning Division include:

  • Comprehensive and Subarea Planning
  • Zoning and Land Use Regulations
  • Washington State Growth Management Act
  • Environmental Review (SEPA)
  • Multi-Modal Transportation
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Urban Design
  • Social Justice
  • Economic Development
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Public Engagement

It is well-known that public education and engagement efforts can help reduce barriers to citizen participation in governmental processes and build trust in communities. However, young people are often excluded from these efforts. To address this reality, the Edgewood Experience provides an opportunity for youth to identify improvements, especially on issues related to:

  • Transparency,
  • Accessibility, and
  • Equity.

Giving students a “behind-the-scenes” look at what it takes to run a city empowers them to be advocates for the importance of local government, and promote public engagement in community decisions.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about the Edgewood Experience, please contact Evan Hietpas at [email protected] or 253-831-4254. For more about the Youth in Planning Task Force’s work, please go to the Youth in Planning webpage or contact the Task Force Co-Chairs Gwen Rousseau ([email protected]), Steve Butler ([email protected]), and Stephanie Velasco ([email protected]).

 Introducing Task Force Member: Evan Hietpas

My name is Evan Hietpas, and I am an Associate Planner for the City of Edgewood. I’ve worked for the City since October of 2018. During my first two years, I worked at City Hall’s front counter as a Planning Technician which allowed me to learn a “little bit about everything” that walked through the door. Through this experience, I grew to appreciate the variety of services that a local government provides. Seeing how the work of various city divisions, including our Planning division, is all interconnected and follows the joint mission of serving a community piqued my interest.

As a planner, I am asked to help citizens shape the future of their community. Edgewood is experiencing a lot of change, which means that our planners have a crucial role in educating people about why it is happening and how they can get involved in decision-making processes. My passion for community engagement has led to some unique opportunities, including the staff liaison position for the “Edgewood Experience.”