Posted on January 25, 2012

PG&E Bright Ideas Grants Helping More Schools

Bakersfield Bright Ideas

At Bakersfield's Leon H. Ollivier Middle School, students, staff and PG&E representatives took part in an event for the $2,500 Bright Ideas Grant.

By Tracy Correa

The future just got a little bit brighter for schools throughout PG&E’s service area celebrating recent Bright Ideas Grant awards of up to $10,000.

The $1,000 to $10,000 grants have been awarded since 2005 and support programs that focus on renewable energy through local green or sustainable solar-related energy projects in public schools. PG&E expects to award $500,000 in Bright Ideas Grants to some 60 schools in 2012 to encourage programs that promote environmental stewardship.

The financial support isn’t taken for granted at the schools – most located in underserved areas – already struggling with tight budgets.

“It’s huge,” said Valley Arts & Science Academy Principal Sandy Fuerte about the financial award. The 300-student Fresno charter school was awarded a $10,000 grant on Monday (Jan. 23).

Paso Robles Bright Idea

Greg Ellis, at left, of the One Cool Earth non-profit, and Patricia Wilmore and Natalie Schaefer of PG&E, far right, joined Liberty High School students in native plant nursery at the Paso Robles school.

Part of the money for the K-6 school, not far from downtown Fresno, will help pay for a school-wide science fair. The funds also will cover fees and supplies for older students to enter the regional science fair competition in February.

“At PG&E, we realize that students are the leaders of tomorrow. With these Bright Ideas Grants, and encouragement from teachers, we can help students foster an appreciation and understanding of sustainable energy as they become our next generation of innovators and scientists,” said Ezra Garrett, PG&E’s vice president of community relations.

Fuerte said this was the first time her school submitted a grant application.

“We are really excited. Every student is going to benefit from this,” she said.

Valley Arts & Science Academy will use the money to support its innovative thinking and hands-on learning projects. In addition to the science fair, the funds will cover field trips and allow the students to take part in the Disneyland Youth Education Series, LEGO Robotics in Modesto and the Destination ImagiNation Tournament.

Fresno Bright Ideas

Valley Arts & Science Academy students (from left) Alejandro Bautista, 9, Jose Ibarra, 10, Gia Finkle, 9 and Esperanza Adams, 9, join PG&E's Bill Juhrennd and school principal Sandy Fuerte in celebrating the Bright Ideas Grant program.

The school accepted the money during an assembly that featured PG&E’s Helmet mascot and an electric safety board demonstration. Bill Juhrend, a PG&E compliance inspector and lineman, captivated students when he showed how a tree branch easily sparked when it came into contact with a live wire in a scaled-down model of a neighborhood.

“I wanted to show you how powerful electricity is,” said Juhrend, warning students to keep away from electrical wires.

From Bakersfield to the Oregon border, schools celebrated the grants.

  • In the Santa Cruz County town of Davenport, students at Pacific   Elementary School were given backpacks last week (Friday, Jan. 20) emblazoned with the words “Bright Ideas.” But it was the $5,000 oversized PG&E check that had teachers and staff buzzing. The funds will be used to purchase equipment and supplies, including steelhead trout incubators and water-quality testing kits for students.
  • In Bakersfield last week, a $2,500 check was presented to Leon H. Ollivier Middle School. Students also were given backpacks during the Jan. 20 event and a local PG&E representative provided a solar presentation. On Tuesday (Jan. 24), Millie Munsey Elementary School in Bakersfield was presented a $2,500 check.
  • In Paso Robles, a $5,000 check was presented to Liberty (Continuation) High School earlier this month. Students also gave PG&E representatives a tour of their native plant nursery.

Since the Bright Ideas program launched, more than $1.6 million has been awarded to 270 schools. Last year, more than $418,500 was distributed to 61 schools.

The deadline to apply for spring grants is March 20, and the cutoff for fall grants is Sept. 20.

Over the last decade, PG&E has distributed about $40 million in grants to education nonprofits and youth education programs in schools. Click here for more information about PG&E’s community giving programs.

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