Rockland P.L.U.S. (Planning Land Use with Students) is a unique program that prepares and inspires youth to address the tremendous challenge of protecting our natural resources and providing for healthy, sustainable communities. Through the planning and design of sites that are actively being considered for redevelopment in their own communities, students take part in a meaningful and impactful educational experience that prepares and inspires them to make informed choices. The program is a collaborative partnership of Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Keep Rockland Beautiful, Rockland Conservation & Service Corps, Rockland Economic Development Corporation, & St. Thomas Aquinas College.
Rockland P.L.U.S. engages over 325 students from 7 to 10 high schools throughout Rockland County in a series of hands-on classroom workshops from January through March. Students consider the health of the environment and the needs of their community as they plan for and map out their redevelopment project in a way that promotes a balance of Social Connections, Economic Opportunity and Environmental Sensitivity (S.E.E.)
Rockland P.L.U.S. culminates in late March with the symposium at St. Thomas Aquinas College where 150 selected students from participating high schools come together to share their knowledge and ideas. It is a special opportunity for students to consider the perspectives of peers from schools across the county and begin to understand the unique needs and the common challenges of their communities.
At the symposium, student groups from each school deliver poster presentations on their redevelopment plan to a local professional volunteering as mentor for the day. Students then reconvene in mixed-school groups to collaboratively plan for the redevelopment of another county site. Two or three mentors are at each planning group to provide feedback and guidance. All in all, over 50 local professionals volunteer as facilitators and mentors at the symposium every year. Students value this rare opportunity to work directly with experts in a variety of fields. The professionals always walk away energized and inspired by the youth.
Rockland P.L.U.S. inspires students to explore exciting new possibilities in sustainable development and personal growth. Many students are moved to help improve their local environmental conditions by becoming more engaged in school and community environmental programs. Rockland P.L.U.S. also exposes students to environmental related careers. Several past students reported they are planning to pursue a degree in environmental studies and/or planning because of their participation in Rockland P.L.U.S. Regardless, all students become better informed consumers who know how to take action to create healthier, vibrant, more sustainable communities – the kind of community they will want to live in!
This student said it best:
“The culmination of the work we put in on ways to improve our own community is satisfying. Knowing you can do something in our own backyard is an exciting thought. I felt empowered as a student.”
Here’s an example of mentoring professionals had to say:
“Real world experience that provokes thought beyond the obvious. This was a great event and am honored to have been invited.”
“It was the perfect example of giving and respecting youth voice in community matters. I felt it was designed to put a spotlight on how youth workers can shine a spotlight on the thinking and involvement of young people.”
“This is always the best community event I participate in. Great job.”
We are able to offer Rockland P.L.U.S for free to local high schools thanks to the following sponsors…