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Environmental Justice

College/Underserved Community Partnership Program

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The College Underserved/Community Partnership Program (CUPP) was created to provide a creative approach to partnering and delivering technical assistance to underserved communities from local colleges and universities.  CUPP enlists colleges and universities, with appropriate programs, to assist these underserved communities, with vital technical support, through student internships and capstone projects. Students work on a range of plans and projects that help communities gain access to resources that can improve the economic future and overall quality of life for the community.  At the same time, CUPP provides practical experience for participating students in their areas of academic study, and students generally receive academic credit for their efforts. The communities receive vital services at no cost, and the schools provide their services at no cost to the federal government.  The program began with four schools in the fall of 2013, 14 in the fall of 2014, and 35 in the fall of 2015.  The CUPP program currently has 71 schools, aligned with 64 different communities.  As of June 2018, we have provided over $15,560,000 of support to communities.

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Program Partners

CUPP is designed to promote collaboration at all levels of government and community organization, with an emphasis on community engagement and support.  In addition, CUPP facilitates public and private partnerships, and nonprofit and private sector organizations.  Currently, there are 71 schools in 19 states throughout the United States who have engaged in the program, completing over 120 different projects. We have agreements to work with the following organizations:

  • US Department of Agriculture (Nationwide)
  • US Department of Interior (Nationwide)
  • US Department of Energy (Nationwide)
  • HHS Office of Public Health (Region 4)

In addition, we have working relationships with the following organizations:

  • US Department of Education
  • US EPA Regions 3, 5, 6, and 8
  • Regional Health Administration, Region 6
  • Thriving Earth Exchange (American Geophysics Union)
  • Community Engineering Corps
  • Georgia Municipal Association
  • Municipal Association of South Carolina
  • Regional Coastal Commission of Georgia

We are working to add more collaborative partners.

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Program Objectives

CUPP works to encourage colleges and universities to give students the opportunity to provide a variety of technical support to underserved communities, based on community identified needs.  This assistance enhances the communities’ ability to gain access to the resources needed to move their communities forward economically, environmentally, and provide better health outcomes. At the same time, the program provides valuable practical experience for college and university students in their areas of academic study. The work done by the schools is provided on a voluntary basis, but the experiential learning opportunity given to students provides a two-fold benefit:  it makes their academic work more meaningful, and gives them practical experience that improves their post graduate work opportunities.  For the communities, CUPP gives them an opportunity to compete with larger cities for resources.  For the federal government, it helps smaller communities compete for federal resources, thereby improving the diverse distribution of federal assets.

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Program Examples

  • The City of Riverdale, GA is challenged with retaining public safety officers and other staff residing within its boundaries. To address this issue, a student project is assisting the city in developing a program to fund, rehab, and resale of property to city employees as a retention incentive. The project’s goals include identifying, assessing and cataloguing the quantity and condition of abandoned and vacant houses for restoration. This will also include a preliminary assessment of environmentally hazardous materials including lead and asbestos. This project has also served as a pilot for the use of federal work study funds to provide stipends for eligible students, enhancing their post-graduation opportunities. Federal Work Study funds are now encouraged to be used to support participation by students who previously were financially unable to participate in the CUPP Program, opening participation by thousands more students.

  • Developed partnership between San Juan College (tribal), Farmington, NM, and Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, to develop a maker space for San Juan to spur entrepreneurial activities (economic development) in Farmington, NM, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. In addition, developed a partnership with the American Geophysics Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) and San Juan College in New Mexico to develop a curriculum to educate students in alternative energy, which will be incorporated in the design of the maker space.Completed project has reenergized the city of Farmington, and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to equip the space for future use.

  • Students from Georgia State University identified weaknesses in the City of East Point, GA’s IT policy through a series of meetings and interviews. They also developed cybersecurity training as part of the City’s orientation process for new employees. New employees will be oriented on cybersecurity threats, malwares, detecting viruses, and how to seek help. The policies and training methods developed by GSU’s students are being adopted and implemented by various cities and counties throughout the state of Georgia. Farhad Islam, East Point’s It Director stated that “the City of East Point benefited greatly from their work.”

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Get Involved

For more information, please contact Michael Burns (, CUPP Program Lead.

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