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Environmental Justice

College/Underserved Community Partnership Program

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The College/ Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) was created in 2011 to provide a creative approach to partnering and delivering technical assistance to underserved communities. The program enlists colleges and universities to assist these communities through student internships, practicums and capstone projects. Communities receive vital assistance and services on a voluntary basis and at no cost. Students gain practical experience in developing solutions to enhance the quality of life for communities. They generally receive academic credit for their efforts. The program began with four schools in the fall of 2013 and has engaged with over 90 academic institutions since then. CUPP has facilitated over 120 partnership projects with more than 70 communities and academic institutions. As of January 2021, the value of services provided to underserved communities is over $45,000,000.

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Program Partners

CUPP promotes collaboration at all levels of government and facilitates partnerships that include public and private entities, and nongovernmental organizations striving to address the needs of underserved communities. We have agreements to work with the following organizations:

  • Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • 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, 7, 8 and 9
  • 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
  • Florida Brownfields Association

We are working to add more collaborative partners.

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Program Objectives

CUPP is a valuable tool used to protect human health and the environment to enhance the quality of life for communities. The objectives are to build capacity and provide a variety of technical support to underserved communities based on community-identified needs, and to provide practical, problem-solving experiences for college and university students in their areas of academic study. Technical assistance provided that addresses environmental, economic, and social issues enables communities to advance toward sustainability and a better quality of life. At the same time, academic institutions and students receive valuable capacity building and community engagement opportunities.  

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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 Jeannie Williamson  (,  CUPP Program Lead.

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