By Tatiana Eaves
In October of 2021 Birmingham had already received rainfall well above the annual average, the highest rate since 1979. This contributed to dangerous conditions with major flash floods causing emergency evacuations, power outages, and damage to homes, businesses, and roads. The city has also received an “F” grade for ozone pollution in the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air report, released in April 2021, which can pose serious harm to the health of people within the community. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, funds from the America Rescue plan, and others, it is time to act and invest in Birmingham and its infrastructure in order to create sustainable and thriving communities. One ambitious and intelligent student is working hard to make changes for the better of the city and beyond.
Onesimus Collins is a junior civil engineering student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and one of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Environmental Justice Program’s Interns. Through the NWF program he is splitting his internship between two of Birmingham City departments: Floodplain Management under the direction of Attorney Tracey Hayes and Capital Projects under the direction of Jeff McKay. He is also part of the National Society of Black Engineers and a junior minister at his church. Onesimus has always had a passion for the environment and the community. “Even when I was younger I was concerned about pollution, and it was always a big issue for me,” he says. “I’ve always wondered what I could do so that the next generation has a clean world to live in. That’s a passion of mine.” He’s driven to succeed to make his mom proud, and pay her back for all of the opportunities she’s given him, and his uncle who’s a civil engineer and role model for him as well.
He mentions that the internship with the National Wildlife Federation has allowed him to push forward even further with his goals. “This internship has helped me grow as an individual and has shown me the importance of networking and building relationships, so that you can grow and move forward,” he says. “It has also helped me see the different sides of engineering, the office part verses the work out in the field and helped me realize what aspects I like the most.” Onesimus said his ultimate goals is to work his way up in the engineering field and eventually open his own engineering firm.