Fifth Annual Public Policy Connects conference welcomes students from Washtenaw International High School

April 17, 2013

Public Policy Connects (PPC) stepped up to a new challenge in 2013. Held on Saturday, April 13, the 5th Annual student-led conference has for the last several years aimed at introducing high school students from southeast Michigan to public policy and demystifying the college application process. This year, the Ford School's Students of Color in Public Policy (SCPP) and co-host Association for Public Policy about Learning and Education (APPLE) amplified that goal when they welcomed sophomores and juniors from Washtenaw International High School and offered them the opportunity to participate in an IPE (Integrated Policy Exercise) style simulation, "Online Learning: The Next Frontier?"

During the Integrated Policy Exercise, master's-level Ford School students take on the roles and viewpoints of various stakeholders—such as legislators, business leaders, advocates, and journalists—as they analyze and attempt to resolve a pressing, current policy issue. The PPC simulation was a success with the high school students, according to Stephanie Zamorano, second-year chair of SCPP and events coordinator for APPLE. During the legislative segment, "students wanted to debate each other—they really got into it," she said, noting that many students reflected on the experience and expressed appreciation. "One student even commented that 'this was a great way to spend a Saturday.'"

The goal of the conference is to define the basics of public policy, not only in order to emphasize its role in everyday life but also to present public service as a viable career path for students who might not otherwise have considered it.

Public Policy Connects was founded by alumna Taurean Brown (MPP/JD '11), during her first year at the Ford School. Now in its fifth year, the conference is a successful student-led initiative. Each year, SCPP hosts Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, or Detroit high school students from diverse backgrounds.

In addition to Public Policy Connects, SCPP also hosts the Diversity Speaker Series and the Pipeline Initiative, which pairs current Ford School master's students with prospective students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to help them with the application process.