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Greely students raising funds, applying for $50K solar power grant

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Greely students raising funds, applying for $50K solar power grant

CUMBERLAND — In its third year, Greely High School's Global Awareness Club has decided to take a slightly different tack.

While in the past the student group has focused on global issues like childhood hunger and HIV, this year they brought things a little closer to home.

Focusing on the larger issues of global warming and climate change, the group is trying to effect change on campus – they've spent the year researching the school's energy use and several members have grown a related class project into a $50,000 grant application to add solar panels to the school.

As of this week, they're $3,000 into raising the matching funds required if the grant is awarded – in order to get a $50,000 Voluntary Renewable Resources Grant from the Public Utilities Commission, they'll need to raise $10,000. Their fundraisers so far have been aimed at students, selling recycled valentines, T-shirts, and holding a dance.

Their efforts will hit the larger community next week when they host a Bob Marley comedy show at the Greely Middle School auditorium on May 21 at 7 p.m.

Though the grant application and fundraising is an extension of the club and a class project being done by seniors Tess Carley and Dana Hanley, the impact of the award, if won, would be felt community wide.

Carley called the high school "the center of the community." She said "we want it to be an inspiration for people to use renewable energy in their homes and understand how it works."

Plus, she added, the project will save the taxpayers some cash. Energy savings from the solar panels, which would heat hot water in the school, is estimated at between $900 and $1,800 depending on market costs.

Carley and her friend, Hanley, have spent the year researching and writing the grant as a project for Julie Doughty's global activism class. Doughty is also the adviser to the student club, which has taken on the task of raising money to support the pair's project.

The girls have worked with the town's Cool Cities Committee, have had discussions with the architect hired for the recent high school renovations, have done everything they could to get town and school administrators on board, and have talked with teachers about how their project, if completed, might be a tool for other classrooms.

"Taking all this, piecing everything together, has been so much more complicated that I envisioned," Carley said, "and rewarding as well."

"So many want a green school," she added, "but think 'how are we going to get there?'" The grant project, she said, is a way of putting minds together to make something happen.

"It has been challenging," she said, "but it will all be worth it if we get to see (the solar panels) put on the school next year."

Carley, who by that time will be in Minnesota attending Macalester College, said she'll fly back just for their unveiling.

"Dana and I have to be there," she said. "We've been very adamant about that."

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.