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Students work paid internships in Georgetown this summer as part of United Nations regional center

May 10, 2018
Two groups of CCU students are part of Georgetown RISE, a United Nations regional center, and each group worked paid internships in the spring and summer in Georgetown County.Pam Martin, political science professor at CCU, envisioned and implemented Georgetown RISE.

Do you remember the number game from childhood called "Connect the Dots"? There were a bunch of numbered dots arranged in such a way so that when you connected them with a line in numerical order, they created a clear picture.

Pam Martin, political science professor at Coastal Carolina University, has taken that childhood game to a whole new level by envisioning, orchestrating and leading a collaborative effort among students, businesses and nonprofits in Georgetown County that benefits everyone involved. Only instead of connecting the dots, Martin connects people.

The picture started a little fuzzy, but as needs and opportunities arose, Martin took advantage.

Among the needs Martin was acutely aware of: Coastal's need to serve Georgetown County, and the need to provide opportunities for paid internships to students who need hands-on experience in a variety of fields but who can't afford to take on unpaid internships.

"Serving Georgetown County is part of the University's mission and charge," said Dan Ennis, dean of the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts. "Unpaid internships are a dime a dozen, yet can only be utilized by a small group of students who can afford to not have a job or to leave a part-time one."

There is a need in Georgetown County for expertise and education, Martin said, because as the county is sandwiched between regions of growth (Horry County to the north and Charleston County to the south), it tends to experience a mass exodus of young people.

But it wasn't until Martin attended a United Nations workshop a few years ago that the picture started becoming more clear, one that would benefit students, Georgetown County businesses, and the effort to create a more sustainable Georgetown, all while fulfilling CCU's charge to serve the county to its south.

The dots started connecting when Martin reached out to Geales Sands, the executive director of the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation. The foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life for all Georgetown County residents by focusing on addressing the root causes of poverty; meeting basic human needs; promoting economic vitality; preserving the environment; and encouraging positive youth development.

"The idea was to grow our own workforce, hoping that by putting the students and businesses together, we can grow Georgetown County and grow opportunities together," said Sands.

Soon after that, in 2016, a coalition of partners in the county, including the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, was designated as a UN regional center of expertise on education for sustainable development, a lengthy name that was later shortened to Georgetown RISE (resilience, innovation, sustainability, education). That enabled Martin to launch the first cohort of interns to work in Pawleys Island and Georgetown County in addition to taking a course about sustainability in CCU's Front Street location.

The spring 2018 interns wrapped up their internships on April 23, presenting their work at the Bunnelle Foundation. The spring interns were: Nicole Bishop, Jeffrey Brennan, Devin Brizendine, Shani Caplan-Chernoff, Alexis DiMarzo, Breanna Dew, Maxwell Graham, Anthony Hess, Brian Hungerford, Connor Kilgore, Leah Levert, Rachel Lopez, Katelyn Montrief, Allison Plessett, John Quinn and Josie Utley.

"While I have always known CCU students were smart and talented and Georgetown was beautiful and welcoming, I never expected the absolute synergy and energy that was created this semester through student, sponsor and community collaboration," Martin said.

The students were paid $1,250 for the semester, and worked for the Georgetown Innovation Center, the City of Georgetown, the Village Group, the Estuarine Reserve, the Surfrider Foundation, the Town of Pawleys Island, the Waccamaw Council of Governments, Georgetown parks and recreation, Georgetown public works, Georgetown code enforcement and Georgetown economic development. The Bunnelle Foundation sponsored four internships.

During their internships, the students were able to work on or assist with a variety of projects, from creating tiny homes to developing a bicycle tour. At the culmination of the internships, the students presented some of their work and explained how their experience tied to one of the United Nations' 17 sustainable goals.

"The best part about this job is getting emails from businesses that student interns are doing great things," Martin said. "The students have learned what I already knew-that people in Georgetown County are kind, collaborative, and proud of their special place."

The summer cohort of interns starts May 7 for eight weeks. The following students will be paid $4,000 for their work: Alexis DiMarzo, Hungerford, Ana Ceclia Huerta, Kai Legette-Gideon, Montrief, Grant Opalisky, John Quinn, Micklayla Smith, Hannah Staley, Catherine Sweeney and Drew Thornton.

The summer businesses are: The Bellamy Law Firm, Carolina Energy Conservation, Mercom Corporation, The Litchfield Company, The Pawleys Island Litchfield Business Association, Screen Tight, Tidelands Health, Georgetown County Office of Public Works and Environmental Services, the Village Group, and the Waccamaw Council of Governments.

"The summer program is really unique," Martin said. "What we are looking at now is not only improving education, but economic opportunity and recognizing and protecting our quality of life and protecting our natural resources around us for today and future generations."

Georgetown RISE is an official designation of the United Nations, and does plan to continue the internship program. Martin said they also have secured funding from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant to look at sea level rise in the county, and she plans more community outreach and task force engagement.

If there is anyone who can make all that happen, it's Martin.

"Pam is indeed the glue; she is someone who makes things happen," Ennis said. "She demonstrates that commitment and passion can overcome all kinds of obstacles. One person with conviction is a majority, and that's Pam Martin."