Hello. I am Edwin Coffman, senior Political Science and English Literature double-major at the University of Pittsburgh, and I am interning for the Fayette County Cultural Trust (FCCT). The FCCT aims to revitalize the area by recognizing preestablished and natural assets and creating partnerships with local individuals.
I’m working alongside two other interns, and we’re all invested in various projects. My involvement includes working towards expanding the Fayette county asset map into Uniontown that the Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP) group built last semester. Several people have reached out to the group showing interest in the project because of a newspaper article, and my initial plan is to reach out to those individuals. The final deliverable will be an extension to last semester’s asset map.
Additionally, I’ll be working on two other projects alongside Gabby and Jenna—the other interns. For the first part of the semester, I will be exploring the possibilities of a business corridor in the Connellsville section of the Great Allegheny Passage trail (GAP). Here, I’ll establish what the area already has while surveying similar trail towns and seeing what works for them. Other towns that I plan on viewing as comparative cases are West Newton, Rockwood, Confluence, and Meyersdale. I also have an assortment of contacts who have already traveled the trail and who should also have insights into its needs. At the moment, there’s not an end goal for this part of the project; however, I will begin exploring and compiling data, and I will start to see more of where it takes me.
The third project I am helping with seeks to transform and revitalize Connellsville’s old PNC Bank building into a useable, productive, and educative space. The building will primarily serve as a business incubator while entertaining many other aspects. In one specific part of the building, our team will be investigating the implementation of teaching spaces for universities, a business incubator, and a coworking space. In addition to these spaces, we will also be exploring the possibility of establishing a vertical garden, mimicking Vertical Harvest Farm’s endeavors in Jackson, Wyoming, and Westbrook, Maine. Our collaborative deliverable, at the moment, will be a business plan that outlines the area’s needs, services/products that meet these needs, and a cost/revenue sheet—we’re conceptualizing the building and business.
I am looking forward to working directly under Michael Edwards and Daniel Cox of the FCCT. Last semester, I only worked in a partnership with them in the ATP. In my new role, it seems to be one where I have more trust—I’m working more independently and within a smaller group. I’m looking forward to taking more initiative and conducting more interviews with the people of Fayette country. Above all, I’m excited to establish more roots and a deeper connection to this region of Appalachia. It’s a fascinating area with incredibly resilient people, and I am fortunate to work with and learn from them. Hopefully, these projects will help and serve the community by recognizing the area’s strengths while also projecting into the future.
I am eager to hear directly from the people their wants and needs. From this internship experience, I hope to learn many things: how to genuinely and quickly establish trusting relationships with people, how to make a working business plan, how to speak effectively over the phone to people for the first time, how to yield better and more valuable data, and, among many other things, how to be an intern.