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Mission Champions: Transforming the Urban Planning Profession

For the last three years, Nate Heffron has collaborated with Mission Society students to introduce them to the world of urban planning. What started as a coincidental meeting has grown into a flourishing partnership, where our young people have led projects that have the potential to profoundly impact our city. Behind-the-scenes, Nate has served as a guide for their inspiring efforts, empowering each student by telling them their voices and ideas matter.

Nate is a Senior Planner for the New York City Parks Department and is part of the American Planning Association’s Diversity Committee - a group focused on equity in the field of urban planning. Alongside a few of his colleagues, he volunteers his time to facilitate workshops, offer mentorship sessions, make connections to other professionals, and oversee students’ self-led projects. Through this work, he encourages students to engage with New York in new ways, and to identify and address infrastructure issues using their own creativity and imagination.

When we spoke to Nate, he shared that he is always impressed by how our students go above and beyond:

Before collaborating with Nate, students may not know that today’s urban planning projects impact their daily lives and follow them into the future. This is one of many reasons why Nate is working to ensure that diverse, young voices are a critical component of urban planning professions. He hopes to demonstrate to students that they can be part of building what will serve them for years to come.

Today, Nate is working alongside our staff and students to create a new vision for our partnership - expanding the program into an urban planning fellowship that reaches more young people in our high schools. Whether or not students become urban planners is secondary to his ultimate goal: that all young people are inspired, learn about their potential, and understand that they are our greatest leaders with the power to change our cities.

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