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Video: PLACE students impress at City Hall, Oregonian newspaper takes notice

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Students from Catlin Gabel's PLACE civic leadership program presented their plans in July 2014 to Portland's mayor and city council for improvements to SE Powell Blvd., a major Portland artery. Their plan was exceptionally well received! A reporter from the Oregonian newspaper took note and wrote this article about their presentation (pdf here and downloadable below).

PLACE program announces new public-private partnership

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Catlin Gabel's civic engagement program getting storefront space in North Portland

Catlin Gabel’s PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) urban civic leadership program and One North, a Portland development and neighborhood project, have created an innovative new partnership. This partnership gives PLACE a storefront space in North Portland to continue operations and expand its mission of student and community engagement. The new location is set to open in the winter of 2015.

“Catlin Gabel is an integral part of this public-private endeavor,” said Catlin Gabel head Tim Bazemore. “Being part of this pilot project will create more experiential learning opportunities for our students, and PLACE will be a catalyst for local youth to engage and lead.”

The development group behind One North, Eric Lemelson and Ben Kaiser, generously donated storefront space to PLACE for five years. “Catlin Gabel aligns with One North’s commitment to community involvement, sustainability, and sharing resources. We are excited to create authentic partnerships in the neighborhood, and have a public purpose impact,” said development team member Owen Gabbert ’02.

This month, the unique nature of this public-private development was recognized by Metro, the regional governing body, which granted the project $420,000. The grant will support the development of the project’s outdoor courtyard, which will become an asset available for use by the community.

PLACE uses urban planning as a tool to teach students from Catlin Gabel and other schools in the region how to become active and engaged citizens working toward positive change in their communities and the world. For example, students have completed projects for clients such as Zenger Farm in outer southeast Portland and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in north Portland. For Zenger Farm, students surveyed nearly 900 youth in the David Douglas school district about food insecurity. Not only did Zenger Farm implement some of the PLACE student design recommendations, but its board of directors still uses that survey data to make organizational decisions.

Since its inception in 2008, PLACE has grown into a three-part program with an international following.

• PLACE courses are offered to Upper School students at Catlin Gabel and worldwide through the Global Online Academy during the school year.
• The PLACE summer program has enrolled students from 15 high schools in the Portland area. About 50 percent of summer students receive financial aid.
• In keeping with Catlin Gabel’s mission to model for others, the PLACE curriculum is offered for free to other schools, and is replicated by educators in 40 cities around the world.

PLACE director George Zaninovich shared his excitement about the increased opportunities provided through this public-private-educational partnership: “Expanding the PLACE program into a permanent home in the community provides more opportunities to use the city as a classroom. This will allow our students to develop closer working relationships with people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. This permanent home and authentic community partnerships in a vibrant urban and multicultural environment will better prepare PLACE students for collaborating in an increasingly global world.”

During the 2014-15 school year, George will continue teaching in the Upper School while also taking the lead on planning for the PLACE program’s expansion. He will work in consultation with two advisory committees—one made up of community stakeholders, civic leaders, and North/Northeast neighborhood advocates, and one composed of youth from North/Northeast Portland, PLACE, and Catlin Gabel.

One North consists of three office/retail buildings opening up to a large courtyard that will serve as a place for sustainability education and for neighbors to meet formally and informally. The project developers are working to realize a vision focused on maximizing energy efficiency, reducing waste and consumption, and sharing resources with the community. Tenants include Instrument, a digital creative agency, and the Kartini Clinic for Children & Families. 

Students join international conversation about food equity

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10Students in the PLACE urban studies class joined forces with students from Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie, Oregon, to give a presentation about food security at a virtual international youth conference.

Other presenting groups were from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Medellin, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. The conference was at 6 a.m. PST, so the students from Oregon awakened at 4:30 to set up at Rex Putnam at 5:30 a.m.

The mayor of Grand Rapids addressed the conference and said he was grateful to have youth tackling the important issues of food sustainability and equity.

Representatives from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability also attended the virtual conference from locales in Germany, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

The presentations were informative, the questions were rich, and everyone learned a lot about local food issues in different countries. 

Upper School teacher publishes curriculum guide for wide distribution

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Upper School teacher and PLACE urban studies director George Zaninovich collaborated with alumna Erin Goodling '99 to produce a curriculum guide for educators, activists, community leaders, and, above all, students. The 121-page guidebook is an outgrowth of Catlin Gabel's PLACE urban studies and leadership program. We are grateful to George and Erin for walking our talk of being a model for progressive education.

The free curriculum guide is posted on our website. We are eager to share this work with others. 
Help spread the word.

Read the PLACE urban studies student blog

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Students in PLACE, Catlin Gabel's urban studies program, are now blogging about their experiences as they learn about how our city works. One of their summer projects for these 19 students from six area high schools is designing a neighborhood greenway for the Pearl District for their clients, Portland's Bureaus of Planning and Sustainability, and Transportation. They are also studying Portland's Cully district. The students have written thoughful reflections about the program and their discoveries so far and will continue throughout the project. A fun read!

The principal of an urban design firm, Terra Fluxus, also wrote about his time with PLACE students on their blog.

Finding Solutions to Food Insecurity in Portland

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Students in the PLACE program have made a change in outer southeast Portland

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By George Zaninovich

At Catlin Gabel, we encourage students to use their education to influence the world around them, but how often do they actually witness their work come to fruition as tangible community improvement? In the spring of 2010, students in the school’s PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) urban studies program worked alongside Portland State University graduate students for nonprofit Zenger Farm and the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services to improve food insecurity issues in outer southeast Portland. Two years later, their work is being implemented.
PLACE students were part of a team assigned to create a site design for four acres of grassland near SE 117th and Foster acquired in 2010 by the Friends of Zenger Farm. At that time, it was a field where neighbors walked their dogs and the homeless took refuge under the bushes. The Catlin Gabel students sought to get the local youth perspective on food security and future uses of the lot, which they achieved by implementing surveys and focus groups, and leading public meetings.
According to the USDA, “Food insecurity is strongly associated with household income. It is, by definition, a condition that arises from a lack of enough income and other resources for food.“ For the first time ever, the Oregon Food Bank Network distributed more than 1 million emergency food boxes in one year, with 33 percent of recipients being children. The PLACE students found that seven percent of the survey respondents in the neighborhoods they studied never have enough food.
“The Zenger project humanized school work,” says Lizzie Medford ’12, one of the project leaders. “It was so powerful to meet and talk with children and then later see on their survey responses that they weren’t getting enough food—especially after hearing on the news and during assemblies about how many people in Portland aren’t getting enough to eat.”
Our students learned that youth in the Zenger Farm neighborhood not only wanted to eat more healthy food in greater quantities, but they also showed a strong preference for learning how to grow and preserve their own food. As a result, the PLACE group wrote a plan called “3 Ps: Produce, Prepare, and Preserve Food” that included recommendations to help Zenger use the site to reduce food insecurity in the neighborhood. The students created a design for the four acres and presented their recommendations to community members at PSU.
“It was encouraging to see how excited the neighborhood youth were to grow their own food and take a stand about healthy eating,” says Lizzie. “The kids knew the value of growing their food but just didn’t have the resources to live out their desires of self-sufficiency.”
Work on the site began last year. Our students visited and were pleased to see that many of their recommendations had come to fruition. Thanks to the additional field space, Zenger Farm has launched one of the first community supported agriculture programs in Oregon that accepts food stamps, and has provided community garden plots in a neighborhood that sorely needs them.
“I hadn’t gotten this involved in making a difference about food insecurity ever before,” says Lizzie. “This project gave me perspective on food production and how to feed a hungry world through empowerment and education.”
George Zaninovich has headed up Catlin Gabel’s PLACE program since 2009. He also teaches freshman history, an urban studies course for the Global Online Academy, and a project-based public health course in collaboration with the science department.
Thanks to Lizzie Medford ’12 for her contributions to this article.  



Catlin Gabel launches the Knight Family Scholars Program

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A new program for the Upper School will bring talented students and an emphasis on experiential learning

From the Winter 2010-11 Caller

This past fall, Phil and Penny Knight honored Catlin Gabel with the largest gift in the school’s history—a multimillion- dollar contribution for the new endowed Knight Family Scholars Program. The Knight’s unprecedented generosity is a tremendous vote of confidence in our school from world leaders in philanthropy.
“My goal is to honor the progressive ideals articulated by school founders Ruth Catlin and Priscilla Gabel—not by resting on our laurels, but by continuing to progress,” said head of school Lark Palma. “Phil and Penny Knight have given us the financial ability to try a new teaching and learning paradigm, see how it works, evaluate the program, and refine it over time. We have been given the opportunity to research, experiment, and stretch our wings in pursuit of improving education. We can be bold, like our students.
“The Knight Family Scholars Program will benefit all students through the innovations we pilot,” continued Lark. “The program also catapults Catlin Gabel’s visibility as one of the leading independent schools in the country, adds to our financial aid corpus, and will undoubtedly have a positive overall effect on admissions and on our ability to attract phenomenal student applicants. I could not be more delighted.”
“The Knight Family Scholars Program quite simply opens doors,” says Michael Heath, head of the Upper School. “It is a chance for us to grow as a school, to stretch our preconceptions of education and our assumptions about those we are educating. The scholars who attend Catlin Gabel every year will gain much from their opportunity, but I think we will learn as much from them, if not more.”
This Q&A by communications director Karen Katz ’74 with head of school Lark Palma explains more about this new program.
What is the Knight Family Scholars Program?
It is a pilot program for the Upper School faculty to explore a new model for high school education and attract outstanding new high school students. The gift funds an endowed faculty member to direct the program and teach in the Upper School. In the anticipated inaugural year, 2012–13, we hope to enroll about four Knight Family Scholars as fully integrated members of the Upper School student body who benefit from our exceptional curriculum. The Knight Family Scholars Program is similar in concept to the Rhodes Scholar program in terms of the caliber of students who will qualify.
What is your vision for how this program will affect Catlin Gabel?
The current generation of students is far more sophisticated than previous generations. Their educational needs are evolving quickly. Educators must ask, what more can we do to prepare them? How can we ensure that they have a great liberal arts and sciences foundation for success in college, plus the experience and skills to thrive in a workforce and world that will change in ways we cannot imagine? Catlin Gabel teachers have envisioned a high school that is more real world, project based, experiential, and interdisciplinary—but limited resources have stymied our progress toward this goal. Now we can take some big steps in building on our curricular innovations and evolve more quickly. As a new Catlin Gabel faculty member, the Knight Family Scholars Program director will collaborate with our high school teachers and students to develop methods of teaching and learning that respond to the changing educational environment.
Where did the idea for the program originate?
The genesis for the program stems from the Imagine 2020 conference held in the spring of 2006. A lasting idea that emerged from the conference was to enrich Catlin Gabel’s educational offerings by taking advantage of what our great city and region have to offer— using Portland as a learning laboratory. Bringing students together with creative, analytical, medical, political, entrepreneurial, and science leaders would further our experiential and progressive education goals. The intent is to get our students “off the hill,” as one alumnus put it in 2006. Our global education and PLACE programs, and the urban studies class in the Upper School, also stem from the Imagine 2020 conference.
How did this gift come about?
As I got to know Phil, our shared interest in improving education emerged as a vitally important theme. Phil and Penny Knight are long-range visionaries and Oregon’s most generous individual education philanthropists, which is humbling and exciting. We talked about Ruth Catlin’s vision of modeling for others and how, because of our relatively small size, our success, and our focus on progressive education, we are the ideal school for innovation. I described some of the seminal ideas that emerged from the Imagine 2020 conference and how hard our teachers work to implement those ideas.
Can you give us an example of a program feature from Imagine 2020 that this gift allows us to implement?
The faculty and the program director will have the opportunity to advance the exchange of ideas in seminars taught by a network of community experts, including some of our talented and notable parents, alumni, and grandparents. The seminars, both on and off campus, will examine topics that emerge from the shared interests of the students and the director as they move through the program together. The seminars will also respond to the availability of influential mentors, speakers, and guest instructors. Upper School students, not just Knight Family Scholars, will be able to attend seminars. It is vitally important that this is open and inclusive, and that we prevent any kind of “us and them” dynamic. We also expect that as the program grows, it will include opportunities for the Knight Scholars to travel nationally and abroad for summer learning.
How else does the program benefit current students?
The research is clear: high caliber students raise the level of learning for everyone. The positive peer effect is evident throughout our school. Students in our supportive, noncompetitive environment engage more deeply when their classmates are excited about the lab, discussion, problem solving, or literary analysis at hand. And, naturally, teachers are at their best when their students are highly engaged.
What are the student qualifications for the program?
Prospective Knight Family Scholars Program participants will stand out in four key areas: academics, community service, athletics, and leadership. As Knight Scholars they will receive tuition assistance funded by the program’s endowment. The amount of assistance will depend on their families’ need. The program will attract well-rounded students who will inspire their peers, take advantage of everything Catlin Gabel has to offer, and go on to serve their communities.
Can current Catlin Gabel students apply for Knight scholarships?
Current and former Catlin Gabel students are ineligible to become Knight Scholars because one objective of the program is to attract new students and deepen our pool of admitted students. The Knight Scholars Program will raise the profile of our excellent Upper School and entice students who will be wonderful additions to our community.
Who determines who qualifies for the program?
The faculty, admission office, and a new program director will decide whom we accept.
Who is the Knight Family Scholars Program director and how is the position funded?
Typically, when donors make large gifts to institutions they fund a position to oversee the program. We will launch a national search for a Knight Family Scholars Program director to fully realize the vision of this program. The director will be Catlin Gabel’s first endowed faculty member. This turning point for Catlin Gabel could very well lead to additional endowed faculty positions.
What are the director’s responsibilities?
First and foremost, the director will find the right students for the program. A big part of the job is outreach and making a wide range of communities aware of the program and our school. As the program spokesperson, the director will bolster the Knight Family Scholars Program and our overall admission program. The director will also lead the scholars’ seminar and teach other Upper School classes so he or she is fully integrated into our faculty. We will hire a dynamic educator who becomes a vital member of our school community.
How will this historic gift change the school?
When we laid out strategic directions in 2003, one of our top three goals was to strengthen our identity and visibility in the community. We set out to identify and attract qualified, informed, and diverse applicants and to increase our applicant pool, particularly in the Upper School. The Knight Family Scholars Program will move us quickly and decisively towards these goals.
Has Catlin Gabel ever received a gift of this magnitude?
In 1987, the school received a $3.6 million bequest from the estate of Howard Vollum that allowed Catlin Gabel to establish an endowment fund. His foresight and generosity moved the school beyond a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.
What other benefits does the Knights’ gift offer?
The Knight Family Scholars Program raises our visibility as one of the leading independent schools in the country. On a purely financial and pragmatic level, the program releases financial aid dollars for students in all divisions. On a more philosophical and curricular level, the Knight Family Scholars Program will stretch us to take some risks about how we teach. All Catlin Gabel students will benefit from the innovations we pilot through the program. On a grander scale, my dream is to model innovations that can benefit students nationwide. We cannot underestimate the value of raising our profile, too. What’s good for Catlin Gabel’s reputation is good for Catlin Gabel’s students and teachers. As far as fundraising goes, this is the tip of the iceberg for all programs and needs of the school. I know Phil and Penny Knight’s generosity and confidence in Catlin Gabel will inspire others to give. In fact, two other donors are planning to contribute to this program. We anticipate a positive overall effect on admissions and on our ability to attract phenomenal student applicants. Some great young people, who perhaps don’t qualify as Knight Family Scholars, will still apply to our Upper School when they learn about Catlin Gabel’s curriculum, meet our faculty and students, and hear about our generous financial assistance program.
Is this Phil and Penny Knight’s first gift to Catlin Gabel?
In the past three years, the Knights have quietly and generously funded other immediate needs that I identified. They were instrumental in our ability to provide financial aid for families who have struggled through the recession. I am so honored that they have put their trust in me and in Catlin Gabel.  


Zenger Farm article: work of CGS PLACE urban studies class noted

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Portland Tribune article, January '11

Students in CGS urban studies program impress Portland's mayor

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When students from several area high schools in Catlin Gabel’s PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) program recently presented their summer project on the redevelopment of Holladay Park, they caught the ear of Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams.

The students talked about their work, which they did on behalf of the city’s  Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at a development workshop co-hosted by the City of Portland, the Portland Development Commission, and the Oregon Department of Transportation. They explained the plan they created to improve one of Portland’s most underrated and misperceived public parks to the public and government officials who attended the event.
After he heard the presentation by Catlin Gabel’s Reid Goodman and Samme Sheikh, and Stacey Abrams from Lincoln High School, Mayor Adams spent about 10 minutes asking questions and teasing out solutions. He said he was impressed with the scope of PLACE’s work and the students’ dedication to making the park a jewel of the community. He also mentioned that their work should be featured on the City of Portland website. 
Some of the officials attending the workshop encouraged the students to continue pushing for a better Holladay Park at the center of a redeveloped inner east side. The students left the event exhilarated that their efforts are paying off in real influence at the governmental level in Portland.
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Urban Planning is Really Quite Fetching

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By Alma Siulagi '10

From the Spring 2010 Caller

As my childhood years faded into the past, the conviction that I would one day change the world dissipated. With the slow creep of reality reducing my options, I resorted to crossing my fingers in hope of stumbling upon another fabulous passion.

The wait was a long one. Throughout the first half of high school, I couldn’t even pick a specific subject that particularly captivated me. I was perfectly decent in most classes, and good grades were within reach if I worked hard (which I did). But nothing came naturally. I was restless about my future, and in a fit of aimlessness, I signed up for PLACE, at the time OULP (Oregon Urban Leadership Program). The vague course name matched my fuzzy understanding of the course, which, as far as I knew, was something my mom wanted me to do.
George Zaninovich, the current head of PLACE, often tells me that “urban planning isn’t sexy.” But I disagree—it completely seduced me with what I had passed off as the impossible. Changing the world may be forever beyond my reach, but changing lives materialized as a real option with PLACE.
What is urban planning? Most of my peers don’t know, and ask me to define it. I usually ramble on about “public spaces” and end sentences with “you know,” but what I really want to say is: It’s where we are standing right now, you and me. It’s everything around us—the buildings, businesses, the flowers on the side of the road, stoplights, your next door neighbor’s house, the way that road curves in a certain way, that tree you like to sit under in the park. It’s something that changes every step you make, provides the backdrop of every memory good and bad, and it’s what I want to do. It’s changed my world, and one day, I will change yours.
Until then, I’ll be here. I’ve chosen to stay in Portland, an urban design and planning hotspot, and study at Reed College. I’ll be downtown starting in May, working with Walker Macy, the firm that designed parts of Catlin Gabel’s breathtaking campus. I plan to spend the next few years learning urban planning inside and out (well, as much as one ever can with such a fluid subject), and then get started on changing the world.  


PLACE Creates Engaged Citizens

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By George Zaninovich

From the Spring 2010 Caller

Often, during one of the first classes of a semester, after the chatter subsides and the room quiets, I grab a piece of chalk, turn towards the students and ask: What is community?

This is an important question. In the program I lead, PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments), students work to complete a plan that addresses a community need of a local nonprofit organization, school, or government agency. As the semester progresses, they use what they learn about civics, sustainability, public involvement, and social equity to walk in the shoes of a project client and understand the interests of the many different stakeholders in the project.
Five years ago, during Catlin Gabel’s Imagine 2020 visioning process for the future of the school, members of the community brainstormed PLACE (formerly the Oregon Urban Leadership Program) as a way to use Portland as a living urban laboratory. Portland is not only Catlin Gabel’s home, it is the perfect place for students to learn how to work with diverse communities. Portland is an engaged city. People participate. Citizens are involved. Communities care. In fact, public meetings in Portland are attended at a rate of three times the national average.
Engaged citizenship for youth is more than registering to vote at the age of 18. Engagement means participating, taking action to enhance communities, becoming a vital member instead of a passive spectator. Urban planning is a dynamic tool that empowers youth by creating real-life situations where they see communities as living entities. This includes spending time in the community in which they work, indentifying stakeholders, talking with them, and creating a plan to work with government officials as well as community members from diverse backgrounds. Engagement in this case is about identifying and strengthening community.

I hear “school” from one side of the room, and I write it down. I hear “neighborhood” from another, and I make a note. Sometimes a voice will mutter “family” and another “friends.” I add both to the list. I ask, can someone be part of many different communities? If so, how does one feel part of a community? And, by the way, what makes a community anyway? As I prepare to write at the board, student stares drift beyond the collection of communities on the chalkboard and out the windows toward different visions of the world around them.

Catlin Gabel students in the current PLACE class have teamed up with master’s students from Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning and the city of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. Together they are working on a community needs analysis and site design for Zenger Farm, a nonprofit urban farm in outer southeast Portland. This educational experience is unique in the partnership of high school students with graduate students and a public agency.
Zenger Farm is in outer southeast Portland’s Powellhurst- Gilbert and Lents neighborhoods, two culturally and economically diverse areas. This project requires immense coordination among all of the entities and an understanding of a wide array of complex urban issues, including farming in an urban setting, food insecurity and how to address it using local food production, community involvement with non-English speakers, and how to motivate and involve youth of different ages and backgrounds.
As part of the project, Catlin Gabel students have had to figure out, in conjunction with their partners, how to engage the community in the Zenger Farm planning process. They created surveys for adults and youth. They went door-to-door in the area surrounding the farm to administer the surveys, and then planned and implemented a design workshop for community members. Our students created activities for youth of all ages, networked with teachers and principals of area schools to get youth input, led focus groups, and worked with the neighborhood association to get youth involved in the process.

After a few moments of window-gazing and silent contemplation, I sit down at a table near the students. The chatter picks up again. One student uses her hands to sketch a giant circle in front of her eyes as she explains her definition of a community and all of the different groups of people in it. Another student raises his hand and talks enthusiastically about the different communities he feels a part of as his arm continues to point upward. He finishes, and with a deep breath puts his arm back on the desk. One of the quieter students in the room mentions that familiarity and commonalities are the keys to feeling part of a community. I get excited and rush to the chalkboard. I write her comments down and ask one more question before class ends. Is it possible to understand a community just by talking about it?

To prepare for the Zenger project, Catlin Gabel students did a lot of reading and discussing. They read articles on Portland’s emphasis on density, the effects of Metro and the urban growth boundary on the region, the challenges facing growing communities, issues facing rural areas in transition, and the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood plan. The reading sparked lively discussion—but PLACE is about getting outside the four walls of a classroom. So that’s what we did.
This current project is a perfect example of what PLACE aims to do: empower youth to be engaged citizens by working on real-world urban planning projects in different communities throughout the Portland region. Catlin Gabel students learn from the world around them while doing important work that benefits the region—the acts of truly engaged youth who have seen their definitions of community expand.
George Zaninovich has been at Catlin Gabel since 2008.  


Urban studies student presentation impresses at PSU graduate school, come see for yourself at public forum

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Students in the PLACE urban studies class have been working with Portland State University graduate students on a food security project involving Zenger Farms in outer southeast Portland. The students will report their findings at a public meeting for planning professionals and community members on Wednesday, June 2, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at Portland State’s Smith Union, room 238. Food and drink provided. Come early to get a seat.

The audience raved about how well prepared and engaging our young community stewards were when they presented their findings and recommendations to professors and students in the PSU School of Urban Studies and Planning.

This is the first time high school students have collaborated with graduate students on an important community project. Come support our students and our city. For more information about PLACE, contact George Zaninovich at

» Link to student projects