By Christina Span
As the community outreach component of the Student Planning Association, the Social Justice Committee seeks to create opportunities for students to practice their planning skills by participating in projects in underserved communities that lack resources, power, or voice, in an effort to raise social justice awareness at Georgia Tech. Founded in 2009, the Social Justice Committee has been active in a number of projects ranging from designing a plan for a community garden for the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association to organizing the GT Jam for Haiti, a concert to raise funds for two Atlanta-based organizations assisting in relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
This school year, the Social Justice Committee continued to stay busy, with a volunteer group of twenty students working on four projects, including:
- developing a housing inventory for the Grove Park Community Land Trust, led by Dan Cotter (MCRP ’13), which will enable the community to raise funds and identify areas for land acquisition for the development of affordable housing;
- a research and data analysis project for the SoPo Bicycle Cooperative, led by Joel Anders (MCRP ’12), to be used for grant and funding applications;
- the panel discussion, “Coal in Your Community,” led by Emily Brown (MCRP ’12), which explored the economic, environmental and health issues related to the coal industry, and discussed alternative energy efforts and their associated impacts; and
- our most ambitious project of the year, a site-specific plan for an eight block section of the English Avenue community for New Life S.A.Y. (Save America’s Youth) Yes!, the community development corporation of the New Life Covenant Church, led by Margaret Lilly (MCRP ’13) and Emily Brown.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Social Justice Committee and New Life S.A.Y. Yes! was designed to address areas of concern among the community. Together, a group of nine students participated in community group meetings to identify concerns and possible solutions. Students used the information provided in community meetings and their own research to develop a report offering: recommendations for urban design and safety improvements; strategies for gainful employment for the community’s unemployed and underemployed residents; solutions for addressing vacant properties; recommendations to engage residents with the community garden; and an analysis of previous studies and plans to identify impacts on the site. The completed report was presented to the community group by the students in June, and will be available on the Student Planning Association’s website.
The Social Justice Committee looks forward to building its relationship with New Life S.A.Y. Yes! and is excited to take on a rich, and varied array of projects in the 2012-2013 school year. The committee is currently finalizing projects for next year, as well as focusing on creating new opportunities for community service while strengthening its presence in the greater Georgia Tech community. If you have ideas for a potential project, or would like more information on how the Social Justice Committee can work with your community, please contact the chair, Christina Span at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christina Span is a City Planning and Public Policy dual degree student and is SPA’s 2012-2013 Social Justice Committee chairperson. Originally from Michigan, Christina has a BS in architecture from Lawrence Technological University and a BA in sociology from Wayne State University. She is specializing in economic development and works as a research assistant at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.