Although most college kids party it up during spring break, nearly 200 college students from 15 schools across the U.S. have decided to instead spend their vacations installing no-cost solar for low-income families, gaining hands-on workforce training, and connecting with solar industry careers through GRID Alternatives’ Solar Spring Break program.
This year’s Solar Spring Break kicked off at the end of February and will run through April 1, and nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives says it is leading teams of students installing solar across California, Colorado and Washington, D.C. Now in its fourth year, the program provides an opportunity for students to learn about the energy and environmental issues facing low-income and tribal communities while gaining a foothold in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.
Teams of 10 to 12 students from each school will travel to different project sites around the U.S. and spend the week on a combination of solar installations, neighborhood outreach, renewable energy educational activities and recreation.
“Solar Spring Break gives students who are passionate about renewable energy the chance to see solar technology in action building more resilient communities,” says GRID Alternatives CEO and co-founder Erica Mackie. “We’re helping shape the climate leadership of tomorrow.”
Students who complete the program will also have access to mentorship opportunities, educational resources, and solar industry job openings through the Solar Energy Industries Association, which is partnering with GRID Alternatives for the first time this year to help make career connections for students wanting to continue in renewable energy.
According to GRID Alternatives, Solar Spring Break has grown from six schools and teams in 2014 to 15 schools and 17 teams in 2017. The effort is sponsored by the Wells Fargo Foundation, which has underwritten the program’s expansion with a focus on schools serving diverse populations.
“Solar Spring Break was deeply eye opening, mind opening and heart opening,” comments Jasmine Tan, an undergraduate at Duke University who participated in 2016. “I felt so much more connected, not only to the solar and sustainability industry, but also to a whole new community and network.”
2017 participants include Arizona State University, Beloit College, California State University – East Bay (two teams), Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Mills College, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University (two teams), Santa Clara University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Massachusetts, University of Michigan, University of Nevada – Reno, and University of North Carolina.