Students from North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences (DEEGS) took a new approach to spring break this year, March 14-18. NCCU students participated in “Solar Spring Break,” a student volunteer initiative that provides home energy alternatives to underserved communities in Sacramento, Cal. NCCU is the only historically black college and university (HBCU) of the 10 universities selected to participate in the program.
The alternative break program, developed by GRID Alternatives, gives college students an opportunity to learn first-hand about energy and environmental issues during spring break. Students spent a week learning about solar array design, met with solar industry executives and installed rooftop residential systems in low-income communities in Sacramento.
“The best part about this experience is seeing the appreciation of the families we are helping,” said Brittany Carson, a senior environmental and geographic science student. “Knowing that the time and work we are putting in is going to help the family out financially, as well as help the environment, has been really rewarding,” Carson said.
The Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences provides students with analytical and methodological skills to interpret relationships between the physical, chemical and biological systems of Earth and the impact of humans on the environment.
“This experience has not only given me the opportunity to learn about renewable energy, but has also allowed me to meet people I would have probably never met, and see places I would have probably never seen, while doing something good for the world,” said Theophraste Noussi, a graduate earth sciences student.
“The ability to give a number of students the opportunity to travel across the county, learn about renewable energy technology and provide a much needed service has been a great experience. It is rewarding to see the sense of accomplishment on students faces once they completed the first house, as well as, seeing the way they reacted to the homeowners appreciation,” said Chris McGinn, assistant professor in the NCCU Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences.
GRID Alternatives is a non-profit solar installer that provides clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities. The organization has installed over 6,500 rooftop solar systems, saving $170 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing nearly 500,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and providing more than 25,000 people with solar training.
“I think the whole experience has humbled a few of the students an opened their eyes to the benefit and need of non-profit organizations, as well as the renewable energy industry,” McGinn said.
Source: North Carolina Central University