The 2017-18 Jean O’Connor-Snyder (JOIP) cohort is accomplishing some incredible work in partnership with communities across Alabama! Check out their progress below!

We’re proud to share this brief update on our friends at Spring Hill College’s Foley Community Service Center, Alabama A&M’s Office of Service Learning and Volunteerism, and UAB’s Office of Leadership and Service (whose projects occur over the academic year). We look forward to providing updates this summer on Auburn University’s Living Democracy, and the University of Alabama’s New College Walker County Internship and Honors College’s Perry County Internship.

The Foley Fellowship in Civic Leadership

This project centers around the Foley Center’s mission and desire to deepen the role of higher education in forming active citizens, and in understanding the complex nature of poverty in Mobile (and how engaged citizens can work together to overcome such issues). Working with Leevones Dubose-Fisher of the Bay Area Women’s Coalition, Rebecca Classic of the SYNC Coalition, and a local pastor, among others, the eight Fellows and their faculty mentor have engaged in biweekly community experiential learning opportunities in the Mobile neighborhood of Trinity Gardens, building relationships, asking asset-based community development questions, and seeking to honor the voices of the community residents, service providers, and civic leaders.

This spring, the Fellows and their faculty mentor are producing a set of recommendations for Trinity Gardens based upon the input of residents and conversations with community and city leaders. The interns will conclude the semester presenting their key learnings at the Gulf South Summit’s 2018 Conference on Civic Learning and Higher Education,  and to a representative of the Mayor of the City of Mobile. 

“The fellowship has shown me people who are in all walks and positions in life but who are all making a change they want to see occur. I am forever indebted to the fellowship for providing me the opportunity to work with these people. I feel I have received a sense of confidence, in a time where our nation is in a new era of turmoil facings situations not seen by any other generation, that change can happen.” – Foley Fellow


UAB’s The Woodlawn Project

The four interns of UAB’s Office of Leadership and Service The Woodlawn Project are engaged in roundtable discussions with community residents and high schoolers from the Woodlawn Early College program on issues of redlining, gentrification, urban development, and issues surrounding fair housing in America, and a commitment to aid community revitalization efforts, specifically in the Woodlawn (BHM) community.

Throughout the project, they have volunteered with the Birmingham Dream Center and studied effects of the Great Migration in Chicago as well as in Birmingham, in order to compare asset based approaches to community development in their Woodlawn community with the Woodlawn community in Chicago, which is strikingly similar in terms of demographics and history, and is also undergoing revitalization. This spring, the interns will visit this community in Chicago to bring these roundtable discussions to local Hyde Park High schoolers, and will complete their civic learning experience through presentations and written reports.  

“I’ve learned a lot about how folks experience growing up in the Birmingham community. In particular, I’ve learned about people’s perceptions towards different neighborhoods in Birmingham and how they challenge many existing stereotypes. I’ve also learned about how redlining affected the Birmingham and Chicago communities and the impact it has had on both communities’ development. Finally, I’ve reaffirmed the power of dialogue as a pedagogical tool.” – UAB intern


AAMU’s Bridging the Economic Gap through Civic Engagement

These three interns and their faculty mentor are working with the AAMU Community Development Cooperation (CDC), a housing and neighborhood development organization currently serving the Edmonton Heights Community. Edmonton Heights is a historically black neighborhood which was one of the earliest set aside for segregation; while the nearby university brought diverse residents for years, the area has become troubled since the 80’s.

In an effort to bring about awareness to the economic issues the neighborhood currently faces, AAMU students have immersed themselves into the community, attended community meetings, offered volunteer services, and helped bring a voice to neighborhood members. The interns have worked understand the neighborhood’s needs by designing, distributing, and analyzing surveys. Furthermore, by opening conversations in three community roundtable discussions, students have moderated and learned to plan, develop, and implement community meetings. Additionally, their faculty mentor reports that after hearing about local children’s needs as Christmas approached, the interns convinced the AAMU president’s cabinet to host 38 children in need on campus and provide dinner, gifts, and Santa.  

This spring, the students will interview Edmonton Heights residents, create a mini-documentary on their experience highlighting community voices, and organize a meeting to share their findings geared towards involving local civic leaders in the findings from previous community discussions. Finally, they will reflect on their experience and present their findings at the Honors College Signature of Excellence Program.

“Ms. Clarke and her students are helping make Edmonton Heights, and other communities, a better neighborhood.  They are eagerly making personal sacrifices, dedicated, and demonstrating pleasure in taking time to clean up around homes like my mother’s to help restore and maintain our communities…They excitedly cleaned up the entire back area behind my mother’s home.  It made my day to see young people working so hard doing this type of work.”   – Edmonton Heights resident


Last, but not least, our three summer partnerships are in the works thanks to the dedicated faculty mentors, community partners, and current students involved in Auburn’s Living Democracy, the University of Alabama New College’s Walker County Internship, and the University of Alabama’s Honors College Perry County Internship. We especially thank the community organizations and residents working with Living Democracy, the Walker Area Community Foundation in Jasper, and Renaissance Marion in Perry County for providing their invaluable expertise and support in preparing the summer students for their immersive civic learning experiences. Stay tuned for an update!

Since the Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program (JOIP) began in 2008, the DMC has partnered with 10 of Alabama’s colleges and universities, nearly 150 students, and communities across the state to create unique community-based learning experiences. These experiences provide college students the opportunity to collaborate with community members in addressing common concerns through the use of deliberative practices. Each internship is a unique partnership between the DMC, an institution of higher education, and a community partner. Contact Rebecca Cleveland at with questions.