A key component of Paulina Valero’s job as the City of Sugar Land’s community engagement manager is to make sure the Sugar Land community has opportunities to learn and participate in City-led projects in real life. So when she was thinking of ways to get residents more involved with the inner workings of city government, she thought “why not start at the beginning?”
That’s where the kids come in.
The City of Sugar Land and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center will be hosting “We are the City,”a one-day, multi-faceted exhibit showcasing City departments and staff and how each of their services provides the quality of life Sugar Landers love. The exhibit will be on display Friday, February 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with live demonstrations between 12 and 3p.m.
“Fort Bend ISD is out of school that day, so this is the perfect opportunity for parents and their children to get out of the house and discover a little bit more about the City of Sugar Land,” Valero said.
Valero and Jessica Young, Sugar Land’s communications and community engagement strategist, came up with the idea for the collaboration and approached the Discovery Center in September 2022.
“It’s the City’s vision to engage with our community every step of the way,” Valero said. “(Our department is) a vital part of connecting with residents and the community. Through this collaboration, we are able to teach children, and hopefully their parents, that there are always new things being worked on and that their buy-in, understanding, and support are always needed.”
Valero said it’s all about meeting people where they are and allowing them the opportunity to learn about the City in new and innovative ways.
“We want to go to places that you wouldn’t expect your local government to be reaching you,” Valero said. “We’re not asking you to come to us in a bureaucratic setting. We’re going to you in this fun, creative, and innovative way so that you can learn about our work as a City.”
Kids and their parents will have multiple hands-on opportunities, including the chance to touch a backhoe or dump truck, participating in a drone demonstration, a flight simulator, and learning about emergency operations via an interactive game. Each activity will touch on the role a city department plays in achieving the city’s most important priorities like redevelopment and public safety, among others.
Valero recognizes the pros of getting in on the ground floor and educating kids on city services they might not realize are in place for their quality of life and wellbeing. She hopes this collaboration gives them a way to both learn for themselves and perhaps teach their parents a thing or two.
“Kids are typically open and receptive to new ideas and to new things,” Valero said. “They have a way of not meeting things with preconceived notions. They always have interest and curiosity. Because of the way they approach things, they can teach us as adults to approach things the same way, especially when things are new or uncomfortable. On the other side of that, kids can come back and teach their parents too. It’s possible they could come out of this exhibit teaching their parents they can’t recycle their pizza boxes.”
You can buy tickets to visit the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center at https://www.childrensdiscoveryfb.org/.