ATLANTA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Clark Atlanta University celebrate the completion of the first stages of a unique partnership that brings together academia, federal agencies, local governments, and grassroots organizations fostering sustainable growth and economic development in rural and small communities. The College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) provides underserved communities with economic development plans, energy savings projects, land reuse evaluation, and vital technical support.
In an effort to address important issues that will support the long term viability of communities where resources to revitalize abandoned industrial sites or unused properties are limited, the Environmental Protection Agency Southeast Regional Office in collaboration with colleges and universities developed the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP). The program enlists college students under the guidance of academic faculty advisors and environmental professionals. “Colleges and Universities are tremendous resources for communities,” said acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiberg. “They have the reputation for being credible purveyors of honest knowledge, searchers of academic inquiry, and the enthusiasm of students is always a plus for any community”.
Clark Atlanta University students are working in functional teams to support the City of Lithonia in its efforts to establish itself as a destination city for local Atlanta residents and visitors to the city and region. Projects included annexation analysis, brand development, and organizational development planning. 'I was very impressed with the quality of the work and presentations by the Clark Atlanta graduate students,” said the Honorable Deborah A. Jackson, Mayor, City of Lithonia. “They were very professional and were able to engage the community as part of the project. We look forward to a continuing partnership with the program.'
“I am very pleased to hear of these outcomes,” remarked Carlton E. Brown, President, Clark Atlanta University. “We believe that this mode of education and service is critical to our collective future and that Dr. Richardson is one of our prototypes. I look forward to the continuation and growth of this partnership.”
Students in the Rural Studies Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College are working cooperatively with the City of Ashburn in Turner County, Georgia and the City of Ocilla in Irwin County, Georgia. During the initial semester of involvement, students completed a study of downtown properties in order to make recommendations on suggested renovation or reuse as part of their community development work.
“The groundbreaking Rural Studies Program at ABAC is unique in the nation,” said Dr. Bobbie Robinson, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. “We are proud of the work of all our students and the reputation they are developing for ABAC, the program, and themselves as students through their excellent relationships within rural communities throughout Georgia. They work in teams in some communities and complete individual internships or practicums in others. Their goal is always to provide positive deliverables back to community agencies and development groups that will assist local citizens to insure the long-term health and viability of their communities.”
The CUPP program benefits both the communities being served and the students involved in the program. Under-served communities are provided with the additional resources and diverse perspectives of a college-educated student body. Students in the program benefit from working collaboratively with City officials, community organizations, environmental professionals, and other stakeholders in solving existing problems and influencing change in actual communities. The program partnership truly establishes a new paradigm for uniting sustainability and economic development in rural and small communities.