High school students take hands-on experience into unique solar internship


July 17, 2019
Picture of students receiving awards after solar installation training

Jennifer Huerta and Cesar Ledezma, rising-seniors at Desert Hot Springs High School, are in the middle of an incredibly unique solar internship. They’re working with their school district,  Palm Springs Unified, to get three solar arrays, totaling 1.7 megawatts, installed on the district’s administrative buildings and two elementary schools.

Neither Jennifer nor Cesar are solar newbies. They’re both students in the Renewable Energy Academy of Learning (REAL), a four-year program that provides students with renewable energy education. Through REAL’s partnership with GRID Inland Empire’s Solar Futures program, Jennifer and Cesar also have hands-on experience installing rooftop solar in their community.

When you’re in the Coachella Valley, it’s easy to see why solar is growing. The sun shines strongly most days and, when asked about the future of renewable energy, Cesar was optimistic. He said, “We’re the generation that will be a part of it so we need to learn as much as we can.”

Career technical education in the area has evolved over time. Students are getting experience with solar and other renewable energy technologies based on the industry needs of the region and the growth of the renewable energy industry. 

Casey Heiser, REAL program coordinator and teacher, says the partnership with GRID is helping both students pursuing higher education and those interested in starting a career right away. One local solar company already employs several REAL graduates. “I would not doubt the experience with GRID influenced that. [Solar] is a booming industry and is solid work they can do,” said Casey.

When Jennifer participated in GRID installations, she saw first-hand how the experience was benefiting others in her community. “Volunteering with GRID helps a lot of people have an entryway into the actual career,” she noted. 

Through their summer internship, Cesar and Jennifer are getting even more solar experience beyond the installation process including behind the scenes to work like evaluating proposals and contracts. They’re learning a lot and both students plan to pursue engineering degrees after graduation and continue to help renewable energy grow.

Thank you SunPower for sponsoring our Solar Futures program!