The APA Ambassador Program is a volunteer activity led by members of the American Planning Association with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of the power and value that the planning profession brings to communities. Particular emphasis is placed on reaching audiences of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds.

 On May 15, 2018, as part of APA’s Ambassador Program, I led an interactive workshop at Mesa College on the City of La Mesa’s Climate Action Plan and strategies on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A class of urban geography and environmental economics students and their respective professors engaged in a dialogue on implementation strategies that the City could consider in advancing the City’s first Climate Action Plan. Topics discussed focused on the development and implementation of the City’s Building Retrofit Strategy, Urban Forest Master Plan, Waste Diversion Program, Solar Photovoltaic Program, and Transportation Demand Management Program. The workshop encouraged students to continue to advance their professional career interests in urban planning, geography, and sustainability. Students provided exceptional feedback relevant to the opportunities and challenges that such a plan could face. Students left the class optimistic and enthusiastic on opportunities to be proactively involve  d on environmental issues such as climate planning. Professor Waverly C. Ray, Ph.D. shared, “Not only did students enjoy the activity, they gained insight into how cities utilize stakeholder input and implement Climate Action Plans.”

On June 1, 2018, I had the privilege of speaking with fifth grade students at El Toyon Elementary School in National City about planning public spaces. The students engaged in analysis and evaluation of public spaces, and presented designs of their ideal public spaces in class. We used the Metropolis curriculum offered via the National American Planning Association. The students talked about what they liked and didn’t like about public spaces they have visited. We differentiated public spaces from private spaces, where everyone is welcome, entry is free, and many activities take place. Earlier in the week the students used the Geometricity curriculum, a project based approach to learning, to design three-dimensional cities on grid paper integrating a range of land uses including public and private spaces. This gave the students a grid to drill down into the public spaces dialogue. When faced with designing their ideal public space, the students dealt with issues such as public access, transportation, safety, and appropriate land uses. The students asked engaging questions that facilitated critical thinking and challenged their understanding of public space. I shared my journey in pursuing the planning profession and different college programs and pathways that could lead to an urban planning career.

The Ambassador Program happens year round and the application period for the 2019 year will open in the late fall 2018. If you are interested in being involved in the Ambassador Program or becoming an APA Ambassador in the San Diego Region, please contact Howard Lee, AICP, at

Editor’s Note:  Howard Lee has received positive reviews thus far and requests for future presentations. Howard even received a warm thank you card from his Mesa College class, which was encouraging! Please consider joining this unique program!