M Partner Summer Interns Work on Community Projects in Charleston

Four students contribute to health, beautification and marketing efforts

Charleston Mayor Sedrick Smith (left) meets with M Partner intern Nala Crumb, Main Street Director Norma Platt, M Partner intern Navodit Paudel and M Partner VISTA Michaela Cooper to discuss the summer projects the students assisted with in the community. Submitted photo

CHARLESTON, Miss. – This summer, University of Mississippi students completed internships in communities across the state working through M Partner, a community engagement effort that seeks to improve quality of life in partner cities.

In Charleston, four University of Mississippi students worked on health promotion and diabetes education, and beautification efforts, among other initiatives.

M Partner offers a framework for community and university representatives to advance priority projects in partner cities across the state. The initiative is central to the university’s mission of learning, discovery and engagement.

Health Promotion and Diabetes Education

Evi Addoh, a second-year master’s student in health promotion and a native of Delta State, Nigeria, spent her time in Charleston at the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center. The wellness center offers numerous programs for individuals with chronic diseases, including diabetes self-management education to help people manage their diabetes.

“Having worked as a dentist in a developing country, attending the University of Mississippi to study health promotion has greatly contributed to my overall growth as a health professional,” Addoh said. “I have attained skills that will enable me not only to provide care for each individual at the clinic but also to impact populations, especially in areas with limited access to health care.”

Addoh helped organize a diabetes education event and gave a presentation on oral health and diabetes, which covered various topics including the importance of oral health to general health, the relationship between oral health and diabetes, and methods to improve oral self-care practices and diabetes control.

This presentation was an opportunity for Addoh to draw upon her professional training as a dentist, as well as her scholarship in health promotion.

“I recall one of the participants saying she was thankful that I had helped to allay her feeling of anxiety towards dental clinics, as that was her major barrier to seeking care for the chronic tooth pain that she was experiencing,” Addoh said. “The participant told me that she would immediately visit a dental clinic for the appropriate treatment.”

Beautification Efforts with the Charleston Main Street Association

Gabriela Wells, a senior majoring in public policy, and Nala Crumb, a senior majoring in psychology, worked closely with Mayor Sedrick Smith and Norma Platt, Charleston Main Street Association director, to assist with beautification projects on the Courthouse Square and Main Street.

“Through this internship, I saw firsthand how change agents such as Mayor Smith and Ms. Norma Platt have taken the necessary steps to accomplish the goal of revitalizing Main Street,” said Crumb, of Walls. “The people of Charleston were very welcoming and had the mindset to accomplish the goals of the project as well.

“The residents of Charleston are the true definition of hard work and dedication.”

Together, they secured donations to purchase high-quality exterior paint and brushes from Lowe’s and Sherwin-Williams, and assisted in the downtown revitalization project known as “Main Street Reimagined” by helping to paint the facades of businesses on Main Street and the Courthouse Square.

Some 35 students from the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program helped with beautification projects in Charleston during a day of service on Aug. 3. Their efforts included painting planter boxes that were placed around Main Street and the Courthouse Square. Submitted photo

This effort raised the profile of the Main Street Association by making connections with local business owners and engaging community members in the painting and beautification projects.

“This opportunity has really opened my eyes to the realities of small towns in Mississippi that are promoting economic development,” said Wells, from Pascagoula. “I had an amazing experience getting to know the community and supporting the downtown revitalization efforts.

“It was heartwarming to see the happiness in people’s expressions as they saw the changes taking place in the heart of their city.”

The duo also helped coordinate a day of service with students in Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program from Ole Miss and Mississippi State University. In partnership with the Main Street Association, 35 future educators from the program came to Charleston on Aug. 3 and painted eight large planter boxes that were placed along Main Street and the Courthouse Square.

Creation of City Website and Social Media

The city of Charleston is also raising its profile through the creation of a website and associated social media channels. Navodit Paudel, a senior majoring in business and an innovation scholar with the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative, worked with the mayor’s office to create a website and social media accounts for the city.

The website will serve as a central hub for residents and visitors to learn about city leadership, services, attractions and events, including the annual Gateway to the Delta Festival. Paudel also created a social media guide with best practices for engaging digital audiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“I was very excited about my work in Charleston and was always eager to learn about the place and people,” said Paudel, of Palpa, Nepal. “Charleston is working hard to preserve its unique culture. I became part of this process by helping them to create the first-ever website and social media accounts.

“As social media plays a vital role in promoting tourism and the mission of the city, it was very important for the city to have these platforms to help attain the vision of economic revitalization.”