From a release issued by the Environmental Protection Angency:
On May 7, 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) entered into an agreement partnering with the City of Ocilla, GA.
"This is an exciting day for EPA, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the City of Ocilla, GA," said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keys-Fleming. "Partnerships like this are enabling EPA to aid in the development of more environmentally resilient communities while also training the next generation of environmental leaders who will advance sustainable technologies, protect the health of our communities, and find solutions to global environmental challenges."
This project will strengthen ties between ABAC and the City of Ocilla, by providing access to assistance and expertise through the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP). The purpose of this program is to develop a pilot program to facilitate and support partnerships between local colleges/universities and small, minority and low income communities in the southeastern region of the nation. This partnership assistance will aid the City of Ocilla by providing assistance and expertise in business management, environmental planning, and information technology.
"This partnership represents a perfect situation to leave all stakeholders with a win. Our students have an excellent learning laboratory that allows them to bring theoretical classroom expertise to real-world problems. Communities get the benefits from having students bring new perspectives and potential solutions to ongoing or entrenched problems. And the success of such partnerships underscores the value of ABAC and the Rural Studies program in our region and beyond," said Dr. Bobbie Robinson, ABAC Dean of School of Human Science. "We believe the Rural Studies program, through ongoing community partnerships, is perfectly timed and positioned to foster growth, address environmental justice issues, and enhance quality of life in rural areas everywhere. The concepts and practices that ground the Rural Studies curriculum are fully exportable worldwide."
The agreement was finalized in a stakeholders meeting to include City of Ocilla Mayor Lamar Royal; Chamber of Commerce Director Hazel McCranie; members of the Irwin County Board of Commissioners; and key business leaders from the community on ABAC providing support to the city through:
- Creation of a Economic and Community Development Plan to include sustainability and energy efficiency;
- IT Support to develop a webpage for the City, and to development electronic billing for the payment of water and sewage bills.
"The City of Ocilla is looking forward to working with students and professors at ABAC to achieve our goals of acquiring technical assistance that will aid in resolving environmental challenges we face," said Mayor Lamar Royal. This partnership illustrates how local and federal governments can collaborate with area colleges and universities in creating meaningful solutions that many small towns and communities face. Furthermore, EPA should be commended for creating valuable programs, at no cost to taxpayers, which promote "Green Initiatives".
This effort will help encourage students of diverse backgrounds to pursue degrees in environmental fields of study and help EPA to attract a workforce as diverse as the public EPA serves, assisting EPA in achieving its mission of protecting human health and the environment.
The College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) is designed for small and minority communities, with long histories of neglect and/or disenfranchisement (population under 6000) in U.S. EPA Region 4 that are in economic decline due to a lack of jobs and economic opportunities. This hardship creates a declining quality of life for the citizens of these towns, and contributes even more to potentially poor environmental conditions and pollution. The support of these institutions will help the communities to address serious environmental health risks to their respective populations and ultimately strengthen the community's environment.