Rionna's Solar Spring Break Finale

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March 19, 2019
Picture of Rionna Octaviano during Solar Spring Break 2017

Solar Spring Break 2019 kicked off this month! This year, over 200 students representing 22 colleges and universities from 15 states are spending their vacation serving low-income and tribal communities across the country and abroad while learning about the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy. We caught up with Rionna Octaviano - a Nevada native and senior microbiology student from the University of Nevada, Reno - before she headed out for her fourth (!) and final Solar Spring Break this week.

How did you first get involved with Solar Spring Break?
When I was a freshman I was part of this program called WISE, which stands for Women in Science and Engineering, and we had different presenters for different opportunities to get more involved in our field. One of the presenters was GRID Alternatives and they were offering this program over spring break to do service learning while serving low-income families to have access and benefit from solar power.

It was a really different experience from all the volunteering opportunities that I was offered because not only did we literally go on top of roofs and install solar panels, but I really appreciated the fact that this program was providing opportunities to have hands-on training to help other people jumpstart their careers.

What does Solar Spring Break mean to you?
For me, it's really about trying to pursue GRID’s mission. I mentioned before, this is a completely different opportunity than what I’ve been used to in the past. The fact that GRID allows all people to be able to get hands-on training to jumpstart their careers and providing opportunities for low-income families to have access to solar power.

How do you feel about being a woman in science?
When I first started participating in Solar Spring Break, a lot more of the [team] members were engineers and there was an apparent lack of women in those majors. It was really influential to see that [the women in the group] were so motivated to be leading this program for UNR and were part of activities that catered to more males like robotics and more technological fields. To see that they were at the same level or even higher than their male counterparts was really empowering.

We’re talking on International Women’s Day, would you share with us a woman that inspires you?
Personally, my mom. When we were still living in the Philippines, she was a doctor, she was a dermatologist, and she always taught that it was very important to focus on my education to make sure that I have all of the opportunities that I would want in the future. That’s one of the main reasons that I work really hard in school and try to participate in as many extracurricular activities as I can to make myself a more well-rounded person. My mom is a very successful woman and she showed me that as long as you work hard for what you really want and what your goals are in life then it’s really possible to get to where you want.

Anything else you’d like to share?
[The last three years] I did Solar Spring Break, it was always in different cities. But this time I’m going back to the very first city that we did our solar installations in. My freshman year we went to Chico and then for my senior year we’re going back to Chico. I feel like it’s a really great way to end my Solar Spring Break trips.

Thanks to Wells Fargo for supporting Solar Spring Break.