Leaving My Mark

Kadafi El-Kardah, Community Engagement Specialist
Kadafi El-Kardah, Community Engagement Specialist

Before you can attempt to solve a problem, you have to understand it in depth. You have to identify whatever resources are available and learn how to apply them to a solution. You have to be willing to embrace your failures, and always ready to adapt. You have to think ahead, anticipating challenges and opportunities while staying focused on a clear vision for the future. These principles are at the heart of planning – and by understanding them, any of us can leave a mark on our community, our city, and ultimately our world.

Every year, the Citizens Planning Institute (CPI) – the education arm of the Philadelphia Planning Commission – empowers a select few Philadelphia residents with knowledge and skills they can use to improve their neighborhoods. The admissions process is typically competitive and, with 104 applicants vying for only 30 seats, this spring was no different. Despite being denied in the past, I decided to apply for the spring 2019 cohort. This time around, I’m happy to say, I was one of the 30 accepted into the program.

CPI offers a seven-week course designed to help residents understand how the City operates and take advantage of resources that can make a difference their communities. Topics include everything from planning and zoning to open-space design and litter reduction, with an emphasis on building coalitions among organizations. Lectures are supplemented with hands-on group activities, giving students an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice.

With the skills I developed during my time at CPI, it’s time for me to leave my mark.

No background in city planning is required, and everyone brings their own unique set of skills. But participants all have one thing in common: love for their neighborhoods, and a commitment to preserving each area’s unique character while working to engage residents, developers, and anyone interested in helping to make things better for everyone.

Over my seven weeks at CPI I got to know many wonderful people, and I look forward to continuing these relationships in the future. We began the journey together, and on June 4th we completed our transformation from students into Citizen Planners.

Being a citizen planner will strengthen my work across the board – both at PEC and in my own community. With the skills I developed during my time at CPI, it’s time for me to leave my mark.