Envision Loudoun, the county government’s effort to hear residents’ views as it shapes the future with a new comprehensive plan, came to Tuscarora High School to hear from those people who it affects most.
Tuscarora High School students on Tuesday heard presentations on the basic facts of the county’s growth and offered their own ideas for where they’d like to see the county go.
“I think doing it through the school, you really do get a kind of a wide variety of demographics, because they’re all coming at it from a different place,” said librarian Karen Yurish, who adapted the county’s Envision Loudoun presentation for the school. “I think that it’s a way to capture a good cross section.”
By contrast, the county is trying to keep track of the demographics of the people who attend other Envision Loudoun meetings, so it can reach out to members of underrepresented communities who, for one reason or another, don’t go to the meetings.
“They self-identify, whereas these kids, we got them where they are,” said librarian Mary Pellicano. “It was good to have that diversity of thought and input.”
The Envision Loudoun session was held during Tuscarora High School’s weekly schoolwide advisory lesson, where every student of every grade takes the same lesson. Tuesday’s lesson was on their community.
“Even some of my teachers didn’t realize how fast the county had grown,” said Tuscarora Principal Pamela Croft. She said Envision Loudoun was a natural fit for the advisory lesson, which has included everything from service projects, to scheduling, to voting, to other types of community involvement.
“Being able to get students’ feedback and providing it to this initiative, I thought, was a really impactful thing,” Croft said. “Not only for the program, but for our students.”
Those students’ ideas mostly came from their own experiences around the high school, ranging from a teen center, to more sidewalks, bike paths and public transportation, to increasing the number of bus and taxi drivers and incentivizing people to take mass transit.
“I think they responded well to the opportunity to really engage, because I don’t know that they always are asked for their input,” Pellicano said. “I think maybe after us spurring some of their ideas, I think that they were surprised that they could come up with ideas, because I don’t know that they’re always empowered to do that.”
“I think we need to know it, because they are the future of Loudoun,” Yurish agreed.
Government teacher Wendy Yacoub, who serves on the comprehensive plan review’s stakeholder steering committee, worked to bring Envision Loudoun to the school. She sees it as a possible pilot program for other high schools around the county.
“I thought it went very well,” Yacoub said. “The kids were engaged.” She said other teachers told her it was the most engaged their students have been in an advisory lesson. Yacoub said the second phase of Envision Loudoun outreach sessions may bring the sessions to schools countywide.
Croft said the Envision Loudoun session went very well, aligning well with the school’s advisory lesson and requiring nothing extra from staff or students.
“I think that any school that has the forum already built to give the students opportunity for feedback—it worked really well for us here today,” Croft said.
This article was updated Thursday, Jan. 12 at 4:37 p.m. to correct typographical errors.