GRAYSLAKE – While some high school students can barely see past next week’s biology test, junior Paula Yoder is envisioning the Chicagoland area in the year 2040.
As a member of the Future Leaders in Planning youth program, Yoder works with other high school students and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to improve the region.
CMAP is a relatively new agency created in 2005 to “remove barriers to cooperation across geographical boundaries and subject areas such as land use, transportation, natural resources, housing, and economic development” according to www.cmap.illinois.gov.
A division of CMAP, FLIP focuses on high school student ideas and asks students to participate and learn about the planning of their community and all of northeastern Illinois.
CMAP placed an ad in a local paper last year that caught the attention of Yoder’s mom, Karen. The Grayslake Central student then wrote a brief essay and received two teacher recommendations as part of the application process.
Once accepted, she joined two members from each of the seven participating northeastern Illinois counties. The group met for its first meeting in September 2008 and now meet one Saturday each month to learn and collaborate with selected regional leaders who make key planning decisions in the participating communities.
As part of the program, Yoder has met with planners and architects from the region and reviewed major development projects, including the O’Hare modernization project.
“I am learning so much,” the 16-year-old said. “It’s amazing how much we think we have modernized, but there is always still room for improvement.”
To demonstrate their ideas for improvement, Yoder and the other FLIP members are working on a PowerPoint that will serve as a final project. The presentation will focus on the existing condition of the communities and determining how to make them better.
The project will be presented to the board of CMAP and other city delegates in April at the Adler Planetarium. The officials will take into consideration the findings of the FLIP members for the Go To 2040 project.
“I was really excited when Paula showed interest,” Karen Yoder said. “She used to be really shy, but now she is more outgoing and has met so many new people. She has to take the train to get to each meeting and because of that and the program she has gained confidence and independence.”
Yoder will not be able to participate in the FLIP program next year because of the age restrictions, but because of her enthusiasm for the project, her siblings are now interested.
“I want to still stay involved in the community,” Yoder said. “Our voices need to be heard in order to change the future.”