Civic Design Through the Lense of a Youth
Sara Lopez is a 2022 Youth Civic Design Fellow with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics Civic Design Cohort. This cohort explores city government and the practice of civic design while supporting ongoing MONUM projects. This year they also developed ideas for making more welcoming spaces in Boston City Hall and its surrounding Plaza.
Right now I am at a time in my life where I feel lost. As a rising senior, every day you are thinking about what’s next. What do you want to do after high school? Where do you want to go to college? What do you want your future to look like? So, when I heard about MONUM’s youth civic design fellowship, I felt like it was a perfect opportunity to explore careers that I have never looked into before, like design and government.
Before arriving at city hall, I thought that people that worked in local government were simply bureaucratic. However, I learned quickly that everyone who works at city hall is really passionate about helping the residents and making this city flourish. I have had many great experiences so far in this fellowship. One of the most memorable ones was helping Bailey Siber, who is researching how the public library can offer its free resources to MBTA users. To help share her survey with MBTA bus riders, we went to Maverick station in East Boston and passed out flyers. As someone who lives in East Boston, it was really rewarding being able to talk to people that live in my community.
On a similar note, I enjoyed creating the banner for Kiddie hall, a play space for children on the second floor of City Hall. I have always liked creating graphic designs and I felt like this project was really impactful. Not only did I have the chance to exercise my creativity, but I also learned a lot about the logistics and factors that are in place when creating a visual display. It was fascinating seeing my work displayed at City Hall because most of the time our work is unseen. I am confident that the skills I learned from creating this banner will help me for future projects.
Finally, one of the biggest questions of this fellowship has been, “What is Civic Design?” I feel like this question will never be answered because Civic design is so broad and all-encompassing; that is the beauty of it. It is a profession where you work to investigate problems in our communities and research solutions to these problems. It is also a really personal job where you interact with so many people in the city and help create a bridge from residents to government which is essential for our city moving forward. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have experienced this summer, and I am so excited to see where these newfound skills take me in the future.
Sara Lopez (she/her) is a rising senior at Dana Hall School. Sara is a hardworking and passionate high schooler navigating her different interests. She enjoys visual design, critical thinking, and helping her community. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her friends and family, cooking, and going to the beach at least once a week. After school, she plays lacrosse and is co-head of peer education, a club where older students teach younger students about healthy relationships, mental health, and just navigating school. A resident of East Boston her whole life, Sara’s favorite restaurant is El Penol, where they serve authentic Colombian food.
About the Fellowship:
The New Urban Mechanics Youth Civic Design Fellowship is designed for youth interested in working at the intersection of design and public service. We are prototyping ways to honor the reflections and contributions of youth in civic design work, foster curiosity about government, and encourage imagination. In addition to working on their own projects the youth civic design fellows connect with city staff based on their interest and reflect on the work being done by our team through their perspective. This year’s fellowship was made possible through the Youth Engagement and Employment SuccessLink Program for youth and young adults.