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LHS renewable energy forum celebrates pilot project

Clean energy career students and community partners highlight green industry jobs---- Photo slide below story

June 23, 2017

By Adriyanna Albert, Staff Writer

Lowell, MA- Secretary of Education James Peyser praised the next generation of green workers during a ceremony to recognized students, educators and community partners involved in a clean energy career course pilot project celebrated at LHS  on May 17th.

Secretary Peyser explained the potential of hands-on clean energy career programs in motivating students toward environmental studies and future jobs. Listen here to his comments on  strengths of the program, and the merits of students in such a course.

The pilot course on Clean Energy Careers is the latest addition to the Environmental Sustainability Pathway (EES), part of a focus on Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) in the Massachusetts public schools, according to LHS Curriculum Director Amy McLeod.

Secretary Peyser said the course is a model for other public schools in the state and around the country.

“The engagement and involvement with employers both in the context of implied learned and in the context of career exploration in having relationships and conversations doing things that are really interesting and exciting that they may have been missing in the absence or during the course of a program like this is just amazing and important,” Secretary Peyser stresse to the audience.

Science Department Chairperson Roger Morneau recognized teachers Killian McAnaney and Mike McLeod for facilitating the Science and Career pathway learning in the pilot program part of the STEM curriculum.

Students participated in projects that included research and constructing solar panels, and going to different locations in the City for training by a clean energy company, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which provides clean energy services to local businesses like the Lowell Five Bank and the Lowell Mill Apartments.

With hands on application of the clean energy principles, students were better able to understand the potential of a clean energy career, according to the students.

Soneta Som, a Junior who completed the pilot course, is just one example of approximately 30 students who participated in the renewable energy projects.

“There’s a high possibility that I’ll enter the clean energy field in the future,” said Junior Soneta Som confidently.

Ms.McLeod also explained that in the clean energy course students engage in various programs involving the environment, hear from professionals about clean energy and learn about the opportunities in this field.

In the Little Theatre posters were everywhere displaying various projects completed by students and others about the field of clean energy.  

The EES pathway includes a dual enrollment course, Environment Studies, with community partner Middlesex Community College.  A dual enrollment course enables students to get the credits necessary for high school graduation while also getting an early start on college credits needed to graduate from college.

Student roundtable

During a question and answer session with community partners, administrators and teachers the students spoke enthusiastically on learning about solar panels, clean energy production, and what they could do with specific clean energy training certifications received in the program.

“…I didn’t know that I was going to get so many certifications. I got weatherization certified, lead certification, we also got OSHA certified which is amazing, I never thought that in one year I’d get all these opportunities,” said student Thais Alves.

Many students were unsure about entering the clean energy field, although they all said that it was an option that they would consider. Students were especially proud of the technical certifications they received.

“The certifications really helped us, they were so beneficial, we did OSHA 10 in our school and it helped us. Now we can put stuff on our resume and we can go far with this, we don’t have to have our companies that we go to pay for this stuff now, we already have it, we got it for free…,” said Leilani Rivera.

Students also completed hands on projects even within the boundaries of their school. They talked about what they did, and what they would do with the knowledge they’ve learned.

“I worked on the solar panel project with the Lowell Five Bank,” said Valentina Florez. “I was able to see how much sun solar panels get and the energy they produce.”

Alves said, “I really wanna take this back to my country…and show them that this is really cool we should do this, like Brazil is always hot let’s put up some solar panels!”

“What brought me here was I was in my house office and I was iffy about the schedule so they kind of just put me in there because I didn’t have anything to fill it…”   Thais Alves explained.

Students also learned valuable communication skills during the team work.

“I learned a lot about debating and public speaking,” said Ajay Proeung, regarding other job skills learned in the course.

Junior Leilani Rivera said, “I wanna be able to teach other schools that this program is so beneficial, not only for the earth, but for ourselves. This program is going to save so many people with problems…It can help all of us…if every school could do this we could have a cleaner world…”

Renewable energy jobs are thought to increase in the future  with there already being an 18% increase in employment for the field between 2015-2016. Solar Energy in particular, is actually the fastest growing field in the U.S., growing by 24.5% between November 2015 and November 2016, that being its fourth year of 20-plus percent growth.

Other students had different reasons.

“The way I got into this program was I wanted to switch one of my classes and this was the only class that was available for me,” said junior Janilez Reyes, who really enjoyed learning about a new field that not many people knew much about.

Synetha Som said, “You may be surprised to hear that I actually chose this class…I sat down with my guidance counselor and what classes she had and she gave me a list…clean energy instantly stuck out to me because I had previously been in an environmental program prior to this…”

Celebrating the power of clean energy forum – Partners speak green

During celebration forum political leaders, administrators and educators spoke to various stakeholders from around the State of Massachusetts.   Secretary Peyser, Head of School Brian Martin, Mayor Edward Kennedy, State Senator Eileen Donoghue, UML Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Dr. Julie Chen, CEO Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Stephen Pike spoke about the pilot projects potential economic impact on the greater Lowell community.

Head of school Brian Martin talked about the legacy of the school, with LHS being the first desegregated high school in the country, and also a leader in co-ed education. Martin praised the diversity of the school with there being thousands of kids from over 300 countries attending here.

These clean energy career students are new leaders on the cutting edge of environmental education issues, said Head of School Martin.

 Martin described the LHS students in this program as leaders in the environmental movement, praising the work they’ve done thus far.

State Senator Eileen Donoghue also congratulated the students and those attending. Donoghue characterized the students and teachers as innovators, paving new paths for educators, and the clean energy field in Massachusetts. The transition for clean energy is so important, she explains, as it’s not only good for those looking for jobs, as there are clean energy jobs for every stage of development, but for our community and climate change as well.

UML Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Dr. Julie Chen, and member of the UMass Lowell Wind Energy Research Group, also congratulated the students.

Dr. Chen expressed how activities like these are so important as they teach students how important green subjects like clean energy actually are to the future,  paving the way for these students to enter career paths.

In the end clean and sustainable energy is one of the most important things in the world, especially as we move closer to a greener society, said Chen.

Four students,  Thaise Alves Leilani Rivera, Janeliz Reyes, and Synetta Som, respectively were invited to the front in audience for a questionnaire in order to offer more about the course and their experiences. 

“I really wanna take this back to my country…and show them that this is really cool we should do this, like Brazil is always hot let’s put up some solar panels!”, Thais Alves said.

Another student, Leilani Rivera says, “I wanna be able to teach other schools that this program is so beneficial, not only for the earth, but for ourselves. This program is going to save so many people with problems…It can help all of us…if every school could do this we could have a cleaner world…”

Janilez Reyes said, “…I plan on moving to Florida and I wanna take this over there, like I want to find programs over there with just how Florida is…”

“One thing I wanna bring forwards from this program is, like all the other girls said, I want to expand this clean energy…I think that this movement is so important in many ways, not only because we need to fix the problems we’ve caused to ourselves, but also it gives so many opportunities to people…”, said Junior Synetha Som.

Secretary Peyser also voiced his concerns regarding the program, clean energy, and other high school courses involving the idea of teaching students about potential job fields. 

Then, speaking from the private sector perspective, CEO Stephen Pike of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center also spoke of the importance of this project.

“It’s absolutely mission critical that we prepare more of you to join the clean energy workforce,” said Pike.

He further explained that the “number one need is trained and qualified employees.”

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics the #1 fastest growing occupation is Wind Turbine Technician, added Pike.

“The jobs are out there…it’s our job to help train you folks to find those jobs,” Pike explained.

Massachusetts was ranked #1 on the Bloomberg Innovation index, a measure of technology industry, Pike remarked.

“One of the keys to keeping Massachusetts number one is education and importantly STEM graduates,” he said.

During the earlier discussion the LHS students explained how they would like to carry forth their experience in the program in the future by introducing the program to other schools, participating in future internships and even bringing it to other places like Brazil and Florida.

Pike highlighted ways his company may be of help to those students who are the prospective interns and employees of tomorrow.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has hired 2,100 interns at over 300 companies in recent years, according to CEO Stephen Pike.

“College internship programs expose students to clean energy jobs and provides companies the badly needed resources,” said Pike.

It takes many partners, public and private, to educate future workers for the clean energy industry.

“We are really, really pleased with the efforts that Lowell has gone through to expose…students to the curriculum that’s necessary to build this workforce of the  future,” Pike concluded.

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