The Environmental Discovery Awards Program (EDAP) funds paid, field experience internships for students pursuing degrees related to environmental studies at New College of Florida, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Ringling College of Art + Design, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. In 2020, participating students were paired with one of 9 local organizations and institutions that match with their passions, interests, and professional goals.

The program was established in 2019 thanks to a $55,000 grant to the Cross College Alliance awarded by an anonymous donor with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The donor purposefully chose to work with the Alliance to efficiently work with multiple higher-education institutions to enrich the learning experience of students and to expand career development resources.

Expansion of the Environmental Discovery Awards Program

At a time that tragedy, disappointment, and financial challenges are confronting many students, the opportunity for Cross College Alliance students to participate in high quality environmentally focused paid internships advancing their academic and career aspirations was more important than ever in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As a result of the successes of the inaugural year of the Environmental Discovery Awards Program and the enhancements to the program implemented in 2020, the following outcomes were achieved this spring prior to the onset of COVID-19:

  • 90% increase in the number of internships: from 10 to 19.
  • 327% increase in the number of intern placement opportunities – from 11 to 36.
  • 350% increase in the number of student applicants – from 16 to 56. 
  • $64,500 projected to be earned by EDAP student interns this summer/an average of $3,071 per student exclusive of additional payroll costs.

What was projected to be a significant expansion of the EDAP program in 2020 was suddenly threatened by the closing of the Cross College Alliance campuses in March and the COVID-19 stay-at-home order by Governor DeSantis on April 1, 2020. Given the uncertainty of the situation, the confirmation of EDAP internship assignments that were almost completed as of March were held in abeyance.

Seven internships representing 13 intern placements were canceled due to changes/cancellations of summer programming and reductions of funding and staffing capacity. However, the remarkable cooperation and enthusiasm of the internship supervisors during the extended intern selection process demonstrated the strong commitment of environmental organizations and supervisors to providing the EDAP internships despite the challenges of COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 & Program Enhancements

2020 Internship Organizations

The 2020 EDAP internship organizations include many of the region’s distinguished environmental organizations and CCA faculty researchers including:

  • Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
  • Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida
  • Florida House Institute
  • New College of Florida (Drs. Jayne Gardiner, Brad Oberle, Athena Rycyk, Geraldo Toro-Farmer)
  • Stocking Savvy
  • Sunshine Community Compost 
  • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
  • University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (Dr. Christelle Bouchard)

Cross College Alliance | Partner Institutions

Learn More About the Cross College Alliance and its Environmental Discovery Awards Program