Spring Break in Los Angeles: Solar Spring Break challenged us to engineer a better world

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March 15, 2020
A kneeling person works on panels on the rooftop, while other people provide construction support

Solar Spring Break provided fun and impactful experiences to twenty dedicated college students during the first half of this month, delivering a solar service learning experience that was 100% "Los Angeles." In the process, our team at GRID Alternatives GLA celebrated a student volunteer opportunity that put new homeowner-owned solar on the grid, benefitting South Los Angeles communities along the Metro A Line; deepened everyone's engagement with the challenges and opportunities across our energy landscape; and elevated voices from multiple communities – placing a particular emphasis on L.A.-based women and nonbinary people of color. Part of a nationwide program that hosts trips to multiple GRID offices, Solar Spring Break is sponsored by Wells Fargo.

A warehouse instructor teaches a class to people in Solar Spring Break shirts
We need to directly engage folx who are ready to learn about solar equity if we want a transition to renewables that includes everyone.

Starting downtown and moving south and east from the GRID GLA office, this year's SSB teams from North Carolina State University in Raleigh and Villanova University in Pennsylvania took crosstown trips that explored our past, present, and future in the Los Angeles region. From inspecting a former car battery recycling plant in Vernon alongside Communities for a Better Environment to breakfast and shopping at Mercado La Paloma, they got to appreciate the organizing and resilience that we see in communities of color throughout the Southland. They even had lunch with leaders from the Compton chapter of the NAACP. SSB co-leader Nila Cousar, a SolarCorps Workforce Fellow at GLA, led a scavenger hunt and walking tour through Watts – helping them see where a just transition to clean energy could change a community that historically received less than its fair share of investment! But as guest speaker Sophia told SSB during our discussion about alternatives to incarceration in the county jail system: "There's a lot more to do [here in L.A.]."

As part of their commitment to serve residents in Compton and Willowbrook, this year's two SSB teams volunteered several days of their time to install no-cost solar energy that will reduce the need for more than a hundred tons of carbon emissions. These systems brought to families through Energy for All have a combined effect that's equivalent to taking nineteen cars off the road. Just as importantly, learning about equity in L.A. cities and neighborhoods that many tourists only glance at from the freeway was a valuable experience that SSB participants won't forget – as they get ready for leadership choices and roles in their careers tomorrow. As the engineers of the future, we're proud that these Spring Breakers will have a new perspective on energy equity that shapes their values.

Thank you to North Carolina State and Villanova University for their support of SSB and partnership in creating a great alternative spring break this year!