April 22, 2009 — Children are the critical factor in making Charlottesville a world-class city, said urban and environmental planning students at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, who have been studying the importance of investing in the long-term wellbeing of children in the community.
On Monday, the U.Va. students will host a conference, "Making Charlottesville a World-Class City for Children," from 9 a.m. to noon in Campbell Hall, room 153. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.
More than 20 percent of Charlottesville's children under 18 live below the poverty line. Research indicates that these children are at the highest risk of lower educational attainment and poorer health, and have less opportunity to fulfill their potential.
U.Va. students have identified three targets for intensive intervention to ensure that children get a fair start and a fair chance at success: health, housing and education.
According to Suzanne Morse, instructor for the course in housing and community development that is sponsoring the conference, "This student-led conference is designed to stimulate a new level of conversation on a community response for children. The workers of tomorrow are in elementary school today. Being a world-class city means that children are a top priority."
Students dug deeply into the topics to look at preventive measures, not just remedies. In health, the discussion will focus on accessible food as well as preventive health measures, such as obesity reduction and exercise programs.
The housing discussion will go beyond structures to look at what it means to have supportive neighborhoods.
Finally, the education panel will examine what kind of community supports are needed beyond the classroom and what role higher education can play in that support system.
A conference summary is available online.
Sarah Malpass, a second-year graduate student in the Urban and Environmental Planning Department, said, "We know that factors both in and beyond the classroom impact how well our children are prepared to step into their role as productive adult citizens after they leave high school. Our conference will examine the interdependency of these factors and propose ways to make Charlottesville a city that prepares all of its children to reach their fullest, lifelong potential."