The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently celebrated the graduation of the first Environmental Justice Academy students at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, who now have the skills and background to work on environmental challenges in their communities.
Through the program, 21 students garnered an understanding of environmental justice and environmental regulations as well as practical steps toward addressing issues. The academy taught them to leverage a range of resources, including human, social, intellectual, technical, legal and financial, to effect long-term changes, as well as consensus-building skills that will allow them to make the most of collaborations and negotiations. They also learned how to increase their communities’ capacities for addressing environmental and public health problems.
The academy is based on the EPA’s Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Model, a process the agency created to simplify the process of positive change and community revitalization into seven steps. The CPS Model was built to engage community leaders, community members and their stakeholders and encourage collaboration.
The Academy allowed students to learn about each element of the CPS Model through a series of modules, which started in September 2015 and continued with monthly meetings on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. Each module featured subject-matter experts, in-class exercises and assignments.