CCUWDP students assist coalitions during COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok

Across the country, Clean Cities Coalitions have been hastily transitioning in-person events to virtual events that provide the same value to stakeholders. Communicating those changes takes great effort, and interns have played a vital role in supporting the flurry of activity to make the necessary changes.  

Students in the Clean Cities University Workforce Development Program (CCUWDP) have performed critical activities during the transition by increasing social media posts, arranging virtual meetings and working to move events online. Keeping stakeholders informed has been crucial during the process and the coordinators reported that interns have helped in that area by drafting emails, posting event cancelations on websites and reaching out to stakeholders to inform them about revised events.

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Brinley Wilson, a strategic communication major working at the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, is utilizing what she’s learned in her studies to translate the Coalition’s changing activities to the community. Wilson assisted in developing a newsletter response to the pandemic in order to let stakeholders know they were monitoring the situation. They also used the platform to acknowledge what they call “transportation heroes,” those who provide essential goods and services to the community. Other parts of the newsletter highlighted resources to help stakeholders adjust to the current landscape and included information from such places as the American Trucking Association, the Center for Disease Control and the Utah Covid Task Force. Wilson said her communication studies helped her to choose communication techniques that fit a wide audience and were sensitive to the changing situation.

Wilson has also increased the social media presence of the Coalition and created a webinar archive on the Coalition’s webpage because many of their stakeholders are now looking for virtual education and information. Wilson plans to stay on for the summer term of CCUWDP and is looking forward to seeing her coworkers face-to-face again, whenever that may be. 

“I didn’t realize how much I would miss going into work and being with the team,” she said. “There is something to be said for being in the same physical space.”

With the cancellation of spring “ride and drive” events due to COVID-19, Central Oklahoma Clean Cities Coalition intern Devon Westbrook’s focus shifted from an in-person EV showcase at an Earth Day event to an EV Scavenger Hunt called “Charger Chase Central OK.” The virtual challenge asks current and aspiring EV drivers to help show the public the growing number of charging station locations around the community. Drivers take selfies or pictures of their car at charging station locations and post them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Coalition partnered with local convenience store chain OnCue, host of two charging stations in Central Oklahoma, to award prizes to drivers that posted from at least three locations. Westbrook played a vital role in the transformation of the event and developed rules and locations for the contest.

Thirty-seven students took part in the Spring 2020 term of CCUWDP, juggling their internship tasks, the move to online university classes, geographical moves and complicated housing situations. Yet, they were there to support their coalitions and the Clean Cities program through this change. Clean Cities thanks the interns for their continued support and efforts during these challenging times. 

The Clean Cities University Workforce Development Program began in 2010 and has provided more than 600 students with internship experience at over 70 Clean Cities Coalitions. The students, from a wide variety of majors, work to advance the goals of Clean Cities at their respective coalitions. In turn, students receive invaluable training, outside-the-classroom learning and inspiration to continue on a career path that will foster the nation’s economic, environmental and energy security. 

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