by Juliana Birnbaum Fox
Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the Ella Baker Center’s Van Jones, and representatives from Solar Richmond, GRID Alternatives, Richmond BUILD, and Solar City held a press conference last week presenting an innovative green jobs program. Addressing both environmental and social issues, the program installs free solar systems for low-income homeowners, helping them to reduce their energy bills, and provides green job training for Richmond residents.
“Let us begin our commitment to train our youth for green-collar jobs and the future – as demonstrated by this solar installation project,” said McLaughlin.
Solar Richmond has formed an alliance with the Ella Baker Center, one of the driving forces behind the federal Green Jobs Act and Oakland’s Green Jobs Corps — a groundbreaking city-funded job training program expected to launch in 2008. They also connected Richmond BUILD, a successful low-income residential assistance and construction training program, with GRID Alternatives, which installs solar electric systems for low-income homeowners and provides training on solar installation.
“As the notion of green jobs for all becomes a reality, it makes sense for the Ella Baker Center to join forces with Solar Richmond and its partners GRID Alternatives and Richmond BUILD. Together, we are committed to creating pathways out of poverty, reducing harmful emissions, and promoting an environmentally-friendly economic future that includes all members of our urban communities,” said Van Jones, president of the Ella Baker Center.
“Our mission to empower communities in need means much more than just helping low-income folks get solar power on their rooftops,” commented Erica Mackee of GRID Alternatives.
“It also means helping people in economically-challenged neighborhoods get access to good jobs in the rapidly-growing solar installation industry. This solar electric installation in Richmond will be the first of many solar projects we do in partnership with Bay Area job training programs to make that vision a reality.”
Trainees who had completed a 9-week construction pre-apprenticeship training program installed solar electric panels on a residential home in Richmond following the conference.
School District Awarded $2.1 Million for Student Safety and Health
The San Francisco Unified School District has been awarded a grant of 2.1 million dollars per year for five years from the U.S Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice. One of only 27 other districts in the nation to receive funds through the Safe Schools, Healthy Students Initiative, the district plans to use the resources to expand their Wellness Initiative to middle schools.
The Wellness Initiative provides free, confidential services for students, including behavioral health counseling, support groups, reproductive health services, plus information and referrals to health resources.
John O’Connell Wellness coordinator Christine Lee, who has been running the program for six years, says it reaches 70 percent of the students at the school, and that the counseling and medical help have had a significant impact. “Some of these kids, it takes them a long time to trust people, but it seems there’s no longer a stigma attached to getting our help. In some cases the program literally saved their lives.”
When applying for the grant, the district showed how the SFUSD Wellness Initiative is already successful in several areas: creating safe environments at schools; reducing student alcohol and drug use; increasing students’ behavioral, social, and emotional development; and improving student access to school and community mental health services. Students at John O’Connell High in the Mission district say their program is working.
“I feel safe,” says senior Victor Yepez, “Whatever is going on outside, or whatever you’re going through, you’re safe in here.”