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May 6, 2009 > Solar Career Day energizes Kennedy High School

Solar Career Day energizes Kennedy High School

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Green is the new buzzword these days, not only from an altruistic standpoint of wanting to protect the environment, but for creation of new jobs and careers. President Barack Obama has made green jobs a major focus of his administration, seeing within the industry many opportunities to help kick-start the economy and get people back to work.

So it seemed a natural progression for Library Media Specialist Clyde Mann and Government and Economics teacher Jerry Lapiroff to focus John F. Kennedy High School's traditional Career Day on this emerging field. On April 23, 50 guest speakers - representing solar and energy efficiency, construction, conservation, recycling and alternative fuels - gathered for the school's first Solar/Career Day.

The keynote speaker was Kevin Surace, chief executive officer of Serious Materials, the largest manufacturer of energy-saving products worldwide. He gave an informative and enlightening talk that alerted the students to the immediate need to reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

"We are in a bad situation and need to stop burning fossil fuels and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere," according to Surace. "We didn't know much about this problem years ago, but the Arctic is melting 90 percent faster than we thought."

Surace further warned of the need to change mindsets and develop more solar, wind and "green" energy efficiency overall. He described jobs that will be in demand, ranging from chemists and engineers to algae farmers, electrical vehicle designers, and solar housing manufacturers, to name a few.

Surace was in the news recently for purchasing Republic Windows & Doors near Chicago as well as the Kensington Factory in Vandergrift, Penn., both of which had closed. As a result, Serious Materials put many people in those communities back to work producing energy-efficient windows and products. "Anything you can think and re-invent is a good idea and an opportunity," Surace said. "Don't listen to naysayers. We can stem the loss of jobs through a green focus."

Throughout the morning, students attended several sessions of interest. During the break, they could meet other representatives or view displays in the quad area. Other participants at Solar/Career Day were: Cisco, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Coulomb, DayStar, NASA Biofuels, SunPower, PG&E, the City of Fremont, and other companies and organizations.

A plug-in electric hybrid and an electric charging station were available for viewing, brought by Mike DiNucci, Vice President of Strategic Development of Coulomb Technologies. He spoke about the future of the motorized vehicle industry.

Another presenter, Yoni Novat of solar-panel developer DayStar Technologies, enjoyed the opportunity to speak with students. "I engaged them and told the students to know what you want to do and have a passion for it. What should you focus on? I can look at physics and base my designs on that."

Sherwin Gormley, an adjunct professor and a researcher at NASA Biofuels, gave practical advice on how to obtain college internships to achieve better understanding and success in the field of their choice.

Attorney and Fremont Councilmember Bob Wieckowski explained how important it is to make Fremont sustainable. Even starting to recycle "could be seen as a cool thing for them to do." School Board member Lara York added, "It's great that Kennedy High School put time into thinking about the students' future career pathways."

"The green focus really put the event in high gear," co-coordinator Mann summed up. "With other employment disappearing, it was the right moment to show students opportunities in the areas of future growth."

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