Spark of change: The Great School Electrification Challenge
By Veda Ganesan, Grade 10 from Flower Mound, Texas
Did you know that schools are among the largest consumers of energy in the public sector? They generate emissions equivalent to those of 18 coal-fired power plants or 15 million cars each year. In an age when sustainable living and cutting-edge technology are paramount, it’s only fitting that our educational institutions join the shift to clean energy.
Enter “The Great School Electrification Challenge,” created by CCL’s National Youth Action Team (NYAT). In this Challenge, teams of students ask their school boards to pledge to “electrify everything” in their schools: HVAC systems, cooking systems, lawn maintenance, school buses, and even solar panel installation. Based on Rewiring America’s “Electrify Everything in Your School Guidebook,” the NYAT has set a goal for the next year to get 15 school boards across the U.S. to pledge to electrify their school districts.
Currently, eight teams are participating in the Challenge, and we hope more will sign up!
“Participating in a Challenge is a fun, informative, and empowering way for students to engage their communities in the national shift to clean electric energy,” said Sharon Bagatell, the CCL Youth Action Coordinator.
My fellow students and I hold a unique position as the primary users of school facilities, giving us the right and influence to advocate for these changes. Taking part in the “Great School Electrification Challenge”— alongside a few friends and a supportive adult — might be the most impactful way we can directly reduce carbon emissions. And, we know these changes contribute to a safer, more comfortable school environment, as studies have linked improved air quality to better academic performance.
Members of the Tahoe Youth Team took that to heart last spring as they launched their school electrification campaign. In true CCL style, they used the “Five Levers” to guide their campaign. They have researched their school board and the district’s energy plan, drafted a resolution, spoken at local school board meetings, conducted tabling events, written op-eds, sought endorsements for their resolution, and built relationships along the way.
Team Leader Keira Scott, in a presentation at the CCL National Conference in June, shared some learnings and some recommendations: “Persevere with a purpose while being patient and respectful. Get your community involved early to show that your proposal has a lot of general support. Stay connected with other climate advocates who are doing similar work.”
Ready to get a team started in your area? Gather at least three students and one supporting adult and register for the Challenge.
As a student, it’s normal to feel daunted by these ambitious tasks, but there is a network of fellow advocates and support by the National Youth Action Team all along the way. In fact, the team held a School Electrification Resolution-Writing Workshop on Sunday, October 15 to move this important work forward.
To me, as a high school student, “The Great Electrification Challenge” is more than just structural; it is a symbol of our commitment to a brighter, greener, and more sustainable future. The Challenge empowers students to be forward-thinkers, innovators, and environmental stewards. As we continue to build and retrofit schools around the country, let us be inspired to pursue the change we wish to see, regardless of how daunting it may seem.
Veda Ganesan is a sophomore at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. She is an avid member of the National Communications and Social Media team of the NYAT. Veda is also co-founder of a youth climate advocacy group and is producer/host of her green investing podcast, Sustainable Cents.