By Alexis Fineman
For the past several months, seniors at LaFayette High School in LaFayette, Alabama have been learning about energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources as part of the 2022 PowerUp! Energy Challenge. In partnership with SOLV Energy and Heart of America, SEI facilitated a series of weekly educational challenges to get students “powered up” about energy in their lives and communities while also introducing students to the solar job market.
The Challenge was launched in February with a kick-off assembly featuring alumni guest speakers Dr. Travis Smith with Unite HBCU, who builds pathways for high school students into HBCUs and from HBCUS into the workforce, and Devon Mackey, a solar project manager with SOLV Energy. It culminated in a multi-week Campaign Challenge. Through the Campaign Challenge, students created educational posters and graphic designs to promote conservation and efficiency measures in their communities. Campaign judges included the Chambers County School Board president Jeffrey Finch, LaFayette mayor Kenneth Vines, Chamber of Commerce director Carrie Royster, and Taylor Teel, the director of Camp Marranook.
First place winner ShaKerya Gunn receives a prize (left) for her Energy Challenge submission (right)
Over 30 students in LaFayette’s senior class participated, and throughout the Challenge, these students experienced the support and encouragement of their communities. Students dove deep into topics of energy, resiliency, and sustainability; explored solar careers; and were asked to consider how they themselves could be agents of change on a warming planet. Of the 30 participants, SEI awarded 12 finalists SEI’s Energy Specialist Certificate. The first, second, and third place winners received scholarship awards of $1500, $1000, and $500 respectively, as well as an array of Goal Zero solar products.
LaFayette seniors receive their awards
While SEI has partnered with dozens of schools to launch challenges in California and in Navajo Nation, the 2022 PowerUp! Energy Challenge marks SEI’s first project in Alabama. In order to facilitate the challenge in Alabama, SEI redesigned the energy challenges from previous years to help provide resources for students to access meaningful and localized information on climate change and renewable energy. After learning about the underlying science behind climate change, students explored scientific predictions for how Alabama will be affected. They also learned about the effects that southern coastal states are already experiencing. Additionally, students learned about Alabama’s electrical grid, including the percent of renewable energy in the state’s electricity portfolio.
We are so grateful to the amazing and supportive partnerships that helped bring this challenge to LaFayette students, most notably SOLV Energy and school leadership from Principal David Owens and teacher lead Ambreka Chappell. And of course, we are proud of and inspired by all of the students who participated in this year’s PowerUp! Energy Challenge!
If you are interested in bringing an Energy Challenge to your school community, please email email@example.com or visit our website to learn more.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field