Sustainable Communities Summer Internship Program - Reflections from Past Interns

January 24, 2022

SLS launched the application for the Summer 2022 Sustainable Communities Summer Internship last week, and the application process is open through Friday, February 4th.  This internship program provides student interns with practical experience in supporting solutions for sustainable communities through real-world experience with community partners in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.  Please see our website for additional information and the application.  This week, we are pleased to share reflections from two 2021 interns.

Gabrielle Oliverio, M.S. City and Regional Planning

Partner: City of Atlanta, Mayor's Office of Resilience

In Summer 2021, I interned with the AgLanta Team in the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience. I worked with J. olu Baiyewu who is the Urban Agriculture Director for the City of Atlanta. Our focus was on developing an AgLanta Ambassador Program which aimed to be a new program that would become the institutionalized mechanism for Atlanta residents to communicate with the City of Atlanta government in matters pertaining to Urban Agriculture & Food Access. Over my 12 weeks working with J. Olu, my work included reviewing previous AgLanta documentation/deliverables such as the Fresh Food Access Report, design food access maps for each NPU, site visits to the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill and the Outdoor Activity Center at Bush Mountain, and meetings with various City personnel to draft programming for the AgLanta Ambassadors which included team members from the Department of City Planning, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Mayor’s Office of Resilience. This was a rewarding experience because it showed me another, often less discussed, aspect of City Planning (which I am currently pursuing a Masters in) and urban space which is more important than we realize.

Tuelo Rapotsanyane, B.S. Mechanical Engineering (Public Interest Technology Fellow)

Partner: Grove Park Foundation

Starting off my Summer 2021 internship, I had a very good idea of the work I was going to be doing with the Grove Park Foundation Inc. The Public Interest Technology Fellowship weekly meetings we had during the Spring semester introduced me to a world of sustainable innovation with the consumer, the future of the project, longevity and the UN SDGs in mind. We identified a common problem in the Grove Park Neighborhood: Food Insecurity. To hit the ground running, we found ways to deeply understand food insecurity in this community, identifying the impact gaps, planning our work, and breaking it into three areas of core focus: Cost Effective and Efficient Food Box Delivery and Cold Storage system, Storm and Rainwater Capturing System tied to Garden Boxes and a Healthy Food Dashboard for the Grove Park Community. From these objectives, my focus was creating an efficient and cost-saving framework for the implementation of a food box delivery system working in conjunction with various NGOs providing food boxes to the community and modeling a storm and rainwater collection system that would allow urban agriculture in the neighborhood. From these projects, I got to interact with community members and NGOs focused on improving livelihoods in a community ravaged by long term effects of years of disenfranchisement, inequality and above all, located in a food desert with no grocery store and a myriad of disparities including poor access to health services. It broke my heart to see how the story of a black child is the same anywhere you go in the world:  characterized by inequalities, discrimination, generational trauma, and poverty. I come from poverty, so I know how it feels to wonder where your next meal is going to come from, especially as a child. I had to do more than just donating food and clothes to those who needed them the most, but to be at the forefront of a Food-Energy-Water system framework that will empower this community and help them get out of the dire situation they are in. This experience made me realize how vital non-profits like the Grove Park Foundation  are to the revitalization of such burdened communities and informed my desire to venture into such work at one point in my future. Of course, with Asset-Based-Community-Development, Public Interest Technology, Servant-Leadership, and Progress and Service at the forefront of my work.