By Armando Godoy-Velasquez
My hometown of Pico Rivera is located on the southeast side of Los Angeles where solar panels are not very popular. Many residents seem reluctant to accept solar panels, mostly because they have misconceptions about solar modules causing more damage versus saving money while protecting the environment. My efforts in spreading solar awareness lead me to many road blocks and hectic arguments because I was not well-informed on the topic. I decided that I could better explain to those who oppose it how much more productive solar panels are as a method of energy production if I learned more about it.
Monday through Thursday for five continuous weeks, I traveled by bus for an hour and a half to attend the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. I participated in the Environmental and Building Sciences field where I took two courses on solar electricity. I learned the fundamentals of how solar modules worked and gained hands-on experience. Assembling a charging station for phones gave me a sense of innovativeness, even though I had really not created something new. With a few guest speakers from Solar City, the biggest solar company in the U.S, I found a new sense of responsibility to spread the knowledge I had gained into my community.
Every Tuesday in the summer after my STEAM Academy courses, I rushed over to El Rancho High School by bus to attend G1DPR’s Be A Leader Senior Boot Camp meetings. Alma Renteria, the Be A Leader project manager at the time, was aware of my involvement in the STEAM Academy. While covering essay topics at a meeting, Alma encouraged me to create a proposal for Jacki Cisneros for a sponsorship to bring the “green initiative” to Pico Rivera. My proposal highlighted how the lack of exposure to solar energy within our community inspired me to create an after school program for middle school students in Pico Rivera to give them the same experience I had in the STEAM Academy. With the help of Jacki Cisneros from Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera, I was able start a series of monthly solar workshops at the STEAM Academy at Burke Middle School. I realized that I could “kill 2 birds with one stone” by spreading solar awareness as I had originally planned, while also planting seeds in our future generation of movers and shakers. Using all the material I learned during my own time at the STEAM Academy, I created small, unit-based projects that would provide students exposure to solar energy. I, along with my LA Trade Tech professor, show students in the program how to wire panels together, connect them to appliances and power other items using solar energy.
While I know there is still a long way to go, being able to spark conversations about solar energy and its importance within my community feels like a start to something exciting. Our communities deserve the best, and I want to ensure that as a whole, we continue to create awareness about the damages of pollution and the importance behind solar energy.
Armando’s Solar Workshops take place once a month at the STEAM Academy at Burke Middle School, from 4 p.m to 6 p.m. Class is limited to 20 students on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr. Parra in room 4.