Champions of Change

2021 has brought significant challenges to our daily lives and the importance of energy and water to solve many of those challenges is greater than ever before. It has become clear that the way we manage these resources will shape the future ahead.  

Climate change has spotlighted the need for conscious consumption of our resources and proving that conservation and sustainability remain the best tools in our toolkit. People now have a much better understanding of the consequences that follow a disruption in the systems that are in place to make sure day-to-day life runs smoothly. Subsequently, many modern-day issues surrounding sustainability, energy, and the environment have become top priority topics for organizations and educators everywhere. 

Fortunately, the next generation of innovators are up for the challenge. These students are champions of change and they want to take action. 

Teaching the Next Generation of Innovators

Coming off of the success of the Smart Energy Education program and scholarship, CPS Energy, the largest municipally owned electric and natural gas provider in the United States, and global technology leader Itron, Inc., have joined forces once again to launch the CPS Energy Summer Fellowship Program. The program offers opportunities for hands-on learning, collaboration and networking, providing high school and university students with an environment where their ideas are valued and used to solve real world problems.

“Our goal with the CPS Summer Fellowship program was not only to educate students about the energy industry but to also create a space where they can offer creative solutions to real world problems,” says Stephanie Ockenfels, Program Lead for Corporate Responsibility for CPS Energy. “The future of energy relies on them so it’s important they understand that their ideas are important and can make a powerful impact.”

Through the CPS Energy Summer Fellowship, students gain valuable career experience and connect with other change agents who are passionate about creating a better, more sustainable world for tomorrow.  

Using eCourses and resources developed for Smart Energy Education, students are given challenges and activities to learn more about the energy water nexus and become an ambassador for the environment. Additionally, students learn about opportunities to turn their passion for conservation into a career by learning about job opportunities at CPS Energy and the chance to apply for the Smart Energy Education scholarship. 

“Advancing sustainability awareness is a top priority at Itron Inc.. We feel confident that when given the opportunity and resources to work with active professionals in the field and learn about the energy-water nexus through hands-on experiences, students will become stronger agents of change. In effect, catapulting their community into a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future,” said Itron’s head of Corporate Social Responsibility Callie Bendickson. 

The Fellowship Experience

The CPS Energy Summer Fellowship program was designed and coordinated through a partnership between the Best Earth Ever (BEE) Project, Students of Service (SOS) San Antonio, and Disco Learning Media. The fellowship also collaborated with KLRN Public Television, the Webber Energy Group at The University of Texas at Austin, and to provide virtual screenings, live discussions, and live demos (including a hands-on water purification activity.) 

“Our goal for the Fellowship was to provide ways students can be part of a better energy future”, explained BEE Project Executive Director Sadie Bronk. “If we are going to combat climate change, we need students to get involved now and solve our energy issues. They are the future of energy.”

Inspiring students through mentorship to take the first step towards a more sustainable future by demonstrating how far technology has come over the past few years is one of the many goals CPS Energy and its partners had in mind when creating the program.

“We wanted Fellowship students to understand that their ideas have value and a place in the energy sector,” says Rachel Salinas, the Director of School Services for KLRN. “By creating an atmosphere where innovative thinking and real world connections are prioritized, these students were introduced to the energy industry head on.”

The Future of Energy

Energy and water will always have a direct impact on the way we live our lives. Technology and innovation plays a major role in the way we harness and use energy for the future – but first, we must learn how to manage these resources wisely. This management begins with education.

“I think that students are starting to pay attention now to things like the energy grid and how energy gets to consumers. I think it’s helpful to continue programs like this one so that students will have a better understanding and perspective of energy today”, said SOS Founder and Executive Director Amir Samandi. 

Having knowledge of the origins of our food, water, electricity, and even the source of the material used to make our clothes, could inspire creative and world-changing ideas in a student’s mind. If you are a parent, an educator, a student, or someone who is curious about energy and sustainability, look into the resources that Smart Energy Education has to offer. We also encourage students everywhere to watch The Future of Energy workshops from the CPS Energy Summer Fellowship program for inspiring talks, cool project demos, and to learn how to create a better, more resourceful and sustainable world for the future.