Oberlin Junior Forms Internship Program to Sustainably Develop Cleveland Neighborhood

May 24, 2010 — In an effort to bring young intellectuals to Cleveland while providing a tangible service to the city, junior Erika Zarowin has partnered with fellow Obies and a host of nonprofits to develop a summer internship program, the Urban Defense Project, that aims to turn the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood into a local model of urban environmental sustainability.

Zarowin, an environmental studies major from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with roots in northeast Ohio, has over the last few months worked with the city of Cleveland and local nonprofits to craft a plan for community greening in the southwest Cleveland neighborhood this upcoming summer. The four-pronged plan for sustainably developing the area will entail research and surveying, improving home energy efficiency, planting urban gardens, and crafting policy briefs for the city.

“In its early stages, this internship program was just a vague desire to create a summer environmental program that would bring positive change to Cleveland and attract smart, young people to a city that needs them,” said Zarowin. “Working with Summer of Solutions and the Energy Action Coalition, the idea became the Urban Defense Project—an initiative that will employ integrated strategies to address urban renewal and community greening on the west side of Cleveland.”

Zarowin and co-coordinator Tim Krueger are working with two Oberlin alumni to staff the program. Joining them are nineteen interns—undergraduate and graduate students from a diverse group of colleges and universities including the University of Georgia, Wellesley College, and Case Western Graduate School of Engineering—who are interested in aspects of energy efficiency, urban planning, policy development, food access, and revitalizing the rust belt.

The project, Zarowin hopes, will serve as a prototype for Cleveland’s citywide efforts to promote environmentalism.

“Our project will concentrate on comprehensively addressing community sustainability in a compact geographic area,” she said. “We hope our pilot summer and the surveying we conduct using this type of model will inform the city's approach to weatherizing 100 percent of the housing stock in the next nine years, in line with its Sustainable Cleveland 2019 vision.”

The project’s local partners include the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization, Neighborhood Progress, Inc., City of Cleveland Office of Sustainability, Policy Matters Ohio, Environmental Health Watch, Summer on the Cuyahoga, and Ohio Student Environmental Coalition. National partners include the Energy Action Coalition, Grand Aspirations, Energy Justice Network, and the DC Project. For more information about the program, visit the Urban Defense Project website.