A small team from the Urban Studies program in York University’s Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has volunteered their time to help a local Grade 7 class realize their dream of creating a park specifically designed for youth aged 12 to 18.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, parks have become more beneficial than ever, providing a safe place for children to hang out and have fun. Not all parks are meant for all ages, though, which is a topic that was explored this year by the Grade 7 class at Summitview Public School in Stouffville, Ont.
Led by York alumna Connie Calvert, the library, arts and digital learning lead at Summitview, the Grade 7 students reflected on their experiences in parks and came to the conclusion that there weren’t any that felt acceptable for youth to be in without judgement from other park goers. Thus began their assignment to design a park specifically for youth – and that’s where the assistance from a team of York urban studies experts came in, guiding Calvert and her class to bring their vision to life.
The team includes: Assistant Professor Teresa Abbruzzese, who has a background in critical urban and social theory; Mark Antoine, a sessional instructor and Urban Studies program alumni, who is a senior development planner for the City of Vaughan; and Monica Dolmanyos, who just graduated from the Urban Studies program, and used this project to complete her placement hours for Abbruzzese’s “The Urban Professional” course, gaining first-hand experience with city planning.
Antoine taught the Summitview students to write planning reports, rationales and other formal documents, while Dolmanyos taught them how to lead focus groups, collect data and present it in an effective manner.
The students’ extensive research and planning showcased how this park would benefit the community through its upscale design targeted at youth, including swings, chess tables and parkour structures, to name a few of its many unique features. Focus group data from participants within Summitview and other schools revealed strong interest in the park, with feedback suggesting it be located on the bike trail and use eco-friendly lighting sources.
Although the location and name of the park have not yet been decided, a successful presentation to the Stouffville City Council on June 15 resulted in Summitview’s proposal being sent to the town planning department for further consideration. The project is now moving forward to next steps.
Abbruzzese commends the students for their incredible work, initiative and dedication to developing their proposal. “They are such an inspiring group to work with and we are particularly thankful for Connie Calvert, who is also an alumna of York University, for reaching out to us.”
Dolmanyos will continue to work with this team as she begins her master’s in information studies at the University of Toronto. As a new alumna of York, she says she “appreciates the creative synergies and community partnerships that can be created when York University alumni stay connected.”
If all continues to go well, Summitview’s Grade 7 class will get to see their youth park vision through to completion. And, with any luck, this experience has inspired them to consider pursuing a degree in urban studies at York when the time comes.