A Sunnyside of Texas: The Solar Dog House Project
By Samantha Perkins
On a hot May day, when many kids were playing video games or watching cartoons, young men from the Solar Dog House Program were auctioning off their first homes. Deandre, an 8th grader at Houston’s Pro-Vision Charter School, stood in front of a small group of adults representing the City of Houston’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program, PMG Energy, administrators and teachers from local schools, and Gulf Coast Community Services Association. The student gave them a tour, pointing to each part of the house and elaborating on each part’s function and design.
Deandre and other Sunnyside youth experience hardships uncommon to others, but it seems they only make some of the neighborhood’s young ones work that much harder. A few well-known figures, including Texas Senator Rodney Ellis and pro-football Hall of Famer and current San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Michael Singletary, were raised in Sunnyside. The students in the Solar Dog House Program hope to rise to such heights. Throughout the journey to reach their dreams, students in the program will recall these childhood memories of integrating renewable energy and green concepts into their work.
While some have chosen not to invest in communities like Sunnyside. TXSES and HREG consciously chose to support this work. These types of programs “place today’s technology in the hands and minds of our youth as we all move forward with solar and geothermal technologies,” says Jim Hudson, HREG Board Member. This paradigm shift of thought, energy and conscious decisions for America’s next generation is a step that HREG is eager to take, Hudson said. “The impossible only takes a little bit longer; young minds seem to make it happen a little faster,” he said.
Building a green initiative from the ground up
No one shares the sentiment more than University of Houston adjunct professor Larry Hill, creator and director of the Solar Dog House Program. The project emerged after blending ideas from Sunnyside residents with an interdisciplinary class of UH students during Hill’s six-week community development course last summer. These ideas then moved forward into the “grant writing process,” said Hill, who is successfully incubating the larger Green For Sunnyside Program. Hill, a doctoral candidate, says the priority is the students. “It’s really not about the dogs,” Hill says. “The program is about getting our youth, their families and the community interested in green jobs, renewable technologies, and the new 3Rs – Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.”
Pro-Vision Inc., an all male charter school dedicated to developing Houston’s underserved students into leaders of tomorrow, were the first to partner with UH to implement this program. There is no other after-school program like this in the nation. It will be scaled up to more schools, churches, community centers, and businesses during the summer months.
Professionals in business know how exciting and fun the green movement can be, but it’s our job to pass it along to the next generation as well. For more information contact Larry Hill at 713-743-8097 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Samantha Perkins is a senior majoring in Advertising at the University of Houston