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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Urban planning students lend aid to developing cities

Photo by Provided

Students work with local representatives to help solve community wide problems.

Living in a developed area, the challenges underdeveloped cities face due to insufficient finances and lack of community involvement often go unacknowledged.


Texas Target Communities (TTC) partners with community organizations like Agrilife Extension to help provide technical assistance for problems faced by small Texas communities. Projects taken on by TTC range from those focused on land use planning and design to more long-term projects tackling environmental or economic issues.  


Jamie Masterson, program coordinator for TTC, said the program has been around since about  1980, but it was given a new mission when the program was revived in 2012 with the hire of John Cooper, the director of the TTC program.


“They wanted to revive the project. [Cooper] came on with the intent to truly engage the community in a meaningful way,” Masterson said. “The communities within the communities, the parts we don’t always hear from. There is a strong emphasis in our program to reach out to the underserved areas of our communities.”


Vrushali Sathaye, urban planning graduate student, was first introduced to the program when she was hired as an intern over the summer. Sathaye said the project gave her an opportunity to have a direct impact on neighboring communities, such as small cities in Houston that were impacted by the recent flood.


“Working through this program, I got to interact with the community members, we got to understand them and what they are looking for and then were able to derive what they wanted,” Sidhaye said.


Amanda Hoque, urban planning graduate student, said the philosophy of TTC emphasizes involving the community members.


“They are actually creating solution to solve the problems in the community,” Hoque said. “They don’t just give them a handout, they help them build their own skills. The professors really incorporate what they do in their classroom, allowing us to apply these skills in the real world and in a simulation.”


The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension and TTC each provide half of the funds for each project, and the remaining half is provided by the community itself being supported through the program. Working with Agrilife, TTC was introduced to the environmental justice group, TEJAS, which led them to Furr High School in Houston.


Jamie Masterson, program coordinator for TTC, said this high school calls themselves “the green ambassadors” because they work to improve the environment in their community. TTC decided to create a co-learning system with the high school.


“We worked on a number of projects with college students here and the high school students there,” Masterson said. “We were able to do co-learning on place based projects with them. The high school also won a $10 million grant and due to our great relationship with them, they wanted to put us on the grant with them. It will be very exciting to see where this goes.”

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