02/17/15 :

Lifelong Energy Educators

Since launching 11 years ago, the Alliance’s PowerSave Campus Program has graduated over 350 interns. The most recent alumni survey indicated that 75 percent of graduates consider themselves to be employed in a “green career” and many cite their experience with PowerSave as a major influence in choosing that career. This is an exciting statistic for the program, but omits the personal alumni stories that motivate PowerSave staff members and help current interns set goals.    

Prompted by the recent graduation of long-standing intern Leticia Martin, I was curious to catch up with other alums and share their post-PowerSave stories. Leticia, an intern at California State University, Long Beach for almost three years, graduated from the program to accept a position with the Port of Long Beach. As an intern with the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Manager, she is developing a guide to help terminal operators reduce their energy use on day-to-day operations. “It’s just like my work with PowerSave, but on a much bigger scale,” she commented.

Leticia recommended I also reach out to a few of her predecessors who were working in the L.A. area. Allie Bussjaeger, the very first PowerSave intern at Long Beach State, now works for a nonprofit environmental education organization called Grades of Green. She is a Programs and Outreach Manager, overseeing elementary school students working to make their schools more sustainable. She noted that as a supervisor, she tries to replicate the dynamic she experienced with PowerSave — “autonomy with a mentor” she called it.  

Two of Allie’s former teammates, Brianna Pagan and Kaylee Weatherly, now work for the Long Beach Water Department, as a Water Conservation Planner and Assistant to the General Manager, respectively. “I would not have made it to my job if I had not been an intern,” Kaylee shared. Brianna echoed this idea saying that she was always interested in sustainability, but PowerSave gave her the tools to enter the workforce and be an effective project coordinator.

All four women said PowerSave was the first “real” job they’d had; they were given responsibility and empowered to make a difference on their campus. The Program's call to action came with trainings — providing both technical knowledge needed to work in energy efficiency and professional skills, such as email communication and public speaking, needed to be a successful employee.

The most striking realization I had in talking with these PowerSave alums, however, is just how strong the alumni and stakeholder network is — these women remain close friends today and often collaborate professionally. Brianna frequently works with the Port and Long Beach State, partnering with past campus advisors and now, past teammates. Kaylee’s first job out of college was an internship with her former team manager Allie at Grades of Green, and now she works with her former teammate Brianna at Long Beach Water.

The network is strong and will only grow as more interns cycle through the program. It is a joy to follow interns through their careers as they bring their energy literacy to new professions and new networks. While not all graduated interns go on to work in the energy industry, all remain life-long energy educators, as well as life-long members of the PowerSave family.