GRID's "How I Got Here" Series: Teresa Perez

This is the latest in a series of regular profiles introducing the GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles staff. In their own way, each member of our team brings a passion for renewable energy to the day-to-day work of Los Angeles' most socially-minded solar company. Here's how one got to where she is today: meet Teresa Perez.

If you've been a Greater Los Angeles partner in years past, then you might have had a previous experience with GRID Alternatives employee Teresa Perez. But what, you might have wondered, does this avid hiker and Los Angeles County native do on our big team? As a key person working on GRID's new line of solar and workforce services under a Transformative Climate Communities grant from California's Strategic Growth Council Teresa has been utilizing the role of Green Together Project Manager to maximize the impact that we play during a massive green investment in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. It's an opportunity for her to use her interest in studying environmental policy, and in a way that underscores our renewable energy-based mission for the Valley's most important GRID constituencies.

An Eastside resident, Teresa formed a set of community priorities while growing up. When she read about the disparities reflected by the lack of parks in East Los Angeles compared with communities on the other side of the freeways, Teresa started out on a path of self-education that would lead her to an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy. She spent a year afterward learning from employees at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) as a participant in a program affiliated with AmeriCorps that immerses recent college graduates in the public sector. Throughout this time in the CivicSpark program, she was learning to ask vital questions about the built environment. For her, the most important one was, "What can I do to be part of a movement that creates healthier spaces and places to live?"

The work she had done in her CivicSpark capacity made Teresa a good fit for our unique Fellowship at GRID, where she worked from 2016 to 2017. The SolarCorps Fellowship allows a person interested in renewable energy and system change spend full time in one of our departments, preparing that individual for professional success. As a Fellow in Outreach, Teresa worked alongside as many as seven Outreach Coordinators to spread GRID's solar program for homeowners in cities from Pomona to the Pacific Ocean (and everywhere between!). Simultaneously, during her professional development Teresa got exposure to the GRID Workforce Development model, a tool to build equity in places that had been left out of the renewable energy conversation time and time again. "I fell in love with GRID," she recalls, naming her time as a Fellow and the various Fellowship opportunities to engage the community as a formative experience.

It was Teresa's first nonprofit job, and that was one reason she made a role shift after 2017 and joined our Development Department, which seeks and renews financial support for the work we do. As a member of Development, Teresa was involved in partnerships that were more likely to encompass multiple parties and that oftentimes had complex deliverables. The most successful of those partnerships, Teresa thinks, led to the installation of no-cost solar for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers at a Downtown Women's Center facility. Each corporate partner involved in that project left the process with multiple benefits: a chance to engage philanthropically with women's issues in Downtown L.A., two days of team-building experience on the GRID project, a deeper appreciation for the DWC mission, and more.

Following more than a year of work back with the LACDPH, which is responsible for improving environmental justice as public health strategy, Teresa had deepened her experience in communities of clear environmental concern. In East and Southeast communities of L.A., for instance, she saw how health professionals tackled the challenge of lead poisoning in immigrant communities; in Vernon, she saw how unexpected health issues that spread beyond their initial site can actually snowball into problems that last for years or decades. Carrying the wisdom of those experiences, Teresa started working as our TCC Green Together Project Manager in the summer, coordinating mission-aligned work with allies as diverse as the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Pacoima Beautiful, and the Trust for Public Land in the Northeast Valley. She describes the fledgling work in and around Pacoima as a rare sort of win for environmental justice: "These agencies and organizations came together for this one community, [a model] which can be replicated in communities with similar needs."

As Teresa continues to grow, she plans to think about what her time in the nonprofit sector can empower her to do on grander scales. For her professional arc, that might involve time in a graduate program, more stepping stones to leadership, or something else entirely. What her younger self cared about, though – places and spaces where humans can thrive – is always going to be a guiding light when she navigates her development. We're glad that community actors with a similar vision, especially ones who come from and care about the health of Valley residents in a greener Pacoima, get to help Teresa achieve GRID goals and potentially see what GRID can do for them.