The APA Foundation invests in future leaders through the Judith McManus Price and Charles Abrams Scholarships. Supporting students as they move through their planning education ensures that the best and brightest are able to contribute to the field of planning.
Gabriela Juarez, AICP, was awarded the Judith McManus Price Scholarship in 2004, launching her work as an APA leader at the state and national levels.
Once unsure about her career path in planning, Juarez is now the chair of APA's Transportation Planning Division.
Like many practicing planners, Juarez was passionate about her community, committed to social justice and wanting to build equitable places. But, like many practicing planners, it took time for Juarez to find the field — and even when she discovered planning, it wasn't a sure bet:
"I knew about the field of planning, but it was not an intuitive path. Dedicating all this time and money to explore a career in a master's setting and not knowing if this would really be for me ... it was really a question mark. It was a little scary.
"Receiving the scholarship was a sign that I was on the right path and this is what I wanted to do and how I wanted to contribute to the world."
The scholarship opportunity was Juarez's first exposure to APA. More than a decade later, she still remembers connecting with members and learning more about the work of the association through the application process. Impressed by the leadership, particularly the women and women of color Juarez had the opportunity to meet, Juarez began to see herself as part of the planning profession — and part of APA.
"The scholarship set the overall tone for how I thought of APA. It really motivated me to stay involved with APA."
— Gabriela Juarez, AICP
Shaping a City
Hired to join the City of Los Angeles Planning Department right out of grad school, Juarez has dedicated her career to the city. Excited to be part of the ever-evolving planning environment in L.A., Juarez has found her calling:
"We are seeing the implementation of planning projects in such an incredibly short time. In past generations, it would take decades and sometimes full careers to see projects come to fruition. And now, within a matter of seven to 10 years, we are building new train lines. This is unheard of — and it makes me feel incredibly privileged to be part of this city."
And, APA has been a part of life Juarez's growth with the city: "During my tenure in the planning department, there were several senior-level employees that were mentors and were involved at the California Chapter at section level, and encouraged me to be active in APA.
"APA became a thread and a foundation that has been a complement to my everyday interactions — and helped me look ahead to what was heading our way or to learn how other communities were approaching planning."
At Home in a Division
Juarez supported California Chapter activities, attending state conferences and the National Planning Conference. But it was the Transportation Planning Division that truly made Juarez feel at home:
"I always plan with the perspective that transportation is the backbone of planning. Transportation needs to be at the center of how we approach solutions.
"Particularly, in Los Angeles, everyone links us to traffic. Transportation has to be our starting point when we're balancing our long-range policy plans all the way down to the details of curb-cuts and linkages to ensure we're making connectivity possible."
The chair of the Transportation Planning Division, Juarez continues to connect APA to her daily work at the City of Los Angeles — and has become an APA member leader inspiring the next generation of practicing planners:
"Not all of planning is going to fit you, but there's a place for you to make a difference in this incredibly broad and important field."
Top image: Los Angeles transit at the La Cienega/Jefferson station. On Election Day 2016, LA voters approved Measure M and secured an estimated $120 billion for a range of transportation projects. Photo by Flickr user Steve and Julie (CC BY 2.0).
About the Author
Elizabeth Hartig is a consultant for the APA Foundation.