Solar Spring Break 2017 highlights include Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, and two great installs

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April 17, 2017

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MIT students walk across the rooftop during work on an install
MIT students came to Los Angeles for a series of Solar Spring Break activities all across town.

Solar Spring Break, a long-running GRID initiative that started bringing college undergrads to Greater Los Angeles in 2015, has a warm place in our hearts. It's a fine way for students to spend their week out of classes, going somewhere largely unfamiliar to learn about career opportunities and sustainable economies. And for us and our homeowners, it's a tradition that fits one of our biggest ideas—building the next generation of solar professionals. When undergraduate and graduate students spend a week at GRIDLA activities, everything from the site visits to the homeowner install is a step preparing them to have future impact beyond the university.

This year, a total of almost two dozen Massachusetts students participated in SSB stays with GLA. They were split into two groups, each in California for a week. At the beginning of March, we kicked off our biggest SSB year by welcoming the University of Massachusetts Boston. A few weeks later, our MIT Energy Initiative partners sent us a Massachusetts Institute of Technology group. Were we expecting anything less than phenomenal engagement from these student groups? No. But once they actually got out into the California sunshine, they proved their excellence in spades.

Both MIT and UMass spent a half-day of their Downtown Los Angeles tour at special partner nonprofit: Homeboy Industries. Homeboy is a GLA workforce development partner, and has earned national fame as one of the preeminent programs working on social enterprise and small business growth. Functioning primarily out of the headquarters we toured (where the team runs a bakery, cafe, tattoo removal parlor, and more), Homeboy's free community services concentrate on at-risk youth, former gang members, and returning citizens. As our colleagues, they help individuals from a variety of tough circumstances get solar careers. Later on MIT and UMass explored the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator campus: a breeding ground for innovation in Downtown's Arts District. For several of these super-talented young people in SSB, the site visit's state-of-the-art facilities were a reminder of how many applications their classroom skills have beyond their current programs; LACI is one of the top business incubators founded by any city.

Installs on real Los Angeles homes channeled the SSB students' palpable excitement into something they could be proud of. One home in the central part of Long Beach and another in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, both qualified to go solar, became learning experiences for the visiting college teams. Thanks to the book learning a lot of them already brought to California through courses of study in chemistry, electrical engineering, and physics, GRIDLA equipment didn't phase anybody on Solar Spring Break. And once our Solar Installation Specialists broke down their two-day projects, UMass and MIT had lots of fun turning a low-income household's rooftop into a clean power source.

Thanks to the MITEI team, our organizing partners at UMass, and both networks who covered Solar Spring Break locally: KABC-TV and Telemundo.