Center for Powerful Public Schools Youth Opportunity Fund Community Partner

Posted on

Status Report August 2015-November 2015

In an effort to support opportunity youth, Center for Powerful Public Schools is developing its Engineering Environmental Innovation (EEI) Program which will train youth for internships and careers in the high demand, high earning field of energy engineering. In August The Center was selected as one of twelve Youth Opportunity Fund Community Partners nationwide. Since the award we have made steady progress building both school partnerships and industry relationships to support the implementation of the EEI program. We are pleased to share our progress with you in this status report.

Background / Community Need:
Los Angeles is in the midst of a youth employment crisis. In a recent study of the 100 largest cities in the US, Los Angeles’ youth employment rate in 2000-2012 ranked third from the bottom. The same report from the Brookings Institution found that unemployed youth tend to continue to suffer from unemployment throughout their lives. The Center’s EEI Program is designed to prepare students for well paying, high demand jobs in the field of energy engineering.

Program Summary:
Engineering Environmental Innovation (EEI) is a school-based training program developed by Center for Powerful Public Schools (the Center) and funded by Citi Foundation and America’s Promise. All elements of the program are focused towards preparing at least 250 low- and moderate-income (LMI) high school students in Los Angeles for promising careers in energy engineering and sustainability. Capitalizing on new, cost effective “internet of things” technology, timely district-wide lighting upgrade projects, and partnerships with local utilities, EEI students will learn technical skills, gain exposure to real-life efficiency contracting, and develop work-readiness behaviors.

School Partnerships:
In order to bring EEI to life, strong relationships with LAUSD and LAUSD Linked Learning school sites must be enhanced and maintained. EEI is about being able to work collaboratively with the students to create limitless pathways and opportunities towards energy engineering-a growing field that promises to offer solutions to some of our world’s most pressing problems. We are grateful for the support that we have received from LAUSD Superintendent, Ray Cortines and Administrator of LAUSD Linked Learning, Esther Soliman.


  • ESET: The Environmental Science Engineering and Technology Pathway at Carson High School, is the first pilot school for EEI. Their strong pathway focus on engineering and environmental science made it the perfect candidate. ESET jumped right in by creating an afterschool program called ESET EEI with high school senior, Dani Dorsky leading the way. The ESET students have created their ESET EEI website where updates on their work with programming and the LED lights are reported on a regular basis. Students also write about different environmental justice topics that are brought up through mini activities and in-depth discussions.
  • Dani Dorsky: ESET High School Senior
    Dani Dorksy, a senior at ESET is president of EEI at the ESET Pathway of Carson High School. Her passion for environmental issues was sparked at ESET and she believes that “the field of engineering is immensely important in solving issues the world is facing today”. EEI is a way for students at ESET to creatively address the numerous issues we face through the engineering perspective.

    • Dani works with fellow female EEI members to write about engineering issues and topics: the latest one is a reflection on gender perspectives.
    • “I think a big reason why gender bias is not such a big problem in the ESET academy is that people here are not tied down by the roles of yesterday, but are freed by the goals of tomorrow”.
  • STEM Academy: The Science Technology Engineering and Medicine Academy of Hollywood is a Los Angeles Unified Pilot School whose mission is to prepare all graduates to be ready to succeed in college, with skills and knowledge required for entry-level jobs in either the Health Sciences and Medical Technology industry sector or the Engineering and Design industry sector. With strong engineering core courses and a focus on sustainability, STEM is dedicated to making sure all students are challenged by authentic and rigorous coursework coupled with internships and strong community partnerships.
    • EEI began supporting STEM Academy by facilitating cover letter and resume writing workshops for seniors. Barbara Sheng, EEI Program Assistant, gave intensive support to 15 STEM seniors as they applied for internship opportunities with LADWP engineers.
    • In order to demonstrate the critical role strong partnerships play in supporting STEM Academy, Center for Powerful Public Schools and Citi Foundation were invited to speak about the Youth Opportunity Fund and specifically about how the EEI Program addresses the need for deep and lasting support for opportunity youth. The presentation was given to a contingency of high profile representatives from Alliance for Excellent Education, Linked Learning Alliance and LAUSD. As a result of our presentation and thanks to the generous support from Citi Community Development representatives James Alva and Jesse Mosqueda, we were able to make an exciting new connection with the Alliance, offering us an opportunity to explore a White House initiative seeking organizations to reimagine education. We will continue to pursue this opportunity and will keep Citi Foundation and America’s Promise updated as deeper connections emerge.
  • Environmental & Social Policy (ESP) Magnet High School: ESP is a small public high school, located on the East LA campus of Lincoln High, that provides all students a career-ready and college- preparatory program. Every student’s achievement is supported through engaging activities, specific feedback and personalized instruction. ESP will be the third and final EEI pilot program, due to start work in November.

eei-2 eei-3







Industry Partnerships:
A crucial aspect to the EEI program is the support and network of industry partners. Being able to explore a multitude of collaborative opportunities and working with industry experts is beneficial to both the students and professional partners. In addition to the robust support of Citi Foundation, America’s Promise Alliance, and LAUSD, EEI has developed important founding partnerships with the following organizations:

  • Towards 50: Ongoing technical guidance and industry connections have been supported by Towards 50 – Percent Building Energy Savings (, an engineering firm with proven experience in achieving deep building energy efficiency improvements of 40% to 50%, including leadership of programs for Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the US Army Medical Command, and the US Department of Energy. Towards 50 has been influential in curriculum development and steering the of EEI focus, providing in-depth knowledge of industry standards, emerging technologies, and workforce needs.
    • Towards 50 founder and lead engineer, Matt Conway, facilitated workshops with ESET EEI students. Mr. Conway also visited two engineering classes at STEM Academy. Students were introduced to lighting audit practices, “right” lighting (industry standards for light intensity requirements), and programming for lighting controls.
    • Towards 50 will lead EEI’s Industry Advisory Board

eei-5 eei-4







  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Co-founders of the MIT startup, Belleds, Dr. Alan Zhou and MIT doctoral candidate Michael Chen are contributing their expertise with the internet of things and wireless LED lighting controls. Dr. Zhou and Mr. Chen will assist with the development of the controls programming curriculum and lighting controls exhibition guidelines.
  • Dr. Zhou and Mr. Chen flew in from Boston to work with students at ESET Academy, Carson High School. Students demonstrated their progress and shared their ideas for innovative applications of the Belled LED lights.
  • Michael Chen, head of software development for Belleds, gave a presentation on the design process used at MIT to develop the wireless technology used in the lights and outlined the programming protocols for integrating the lights with other technologies. Michael noted that he was very impressed with the progress the EEI students had made on learning the programming commands for the LED lights and helped to troubleshoot with students through a number of issues.

eei-6 eei-7







  • University of Southern California(USC), Viterbi School of Engineering and USC Viterbi Adopt-a-School Adopt-a-Teacher(VAST): USC Viterbi School of Engineering and VAST program have partnered with the Center to connect EEI students with USC’s preeminent energy efficiency scientists and the advanced research that they are conducting in USC’s engineering labs. USC Viterbi VAST Administrator, Dr. Katie Mills is supporting the collaboration, having already provided EEI students with lab visits and linked EEI with Professor Jayakanth Ravichandran.
  • Students from ESET EEI participated in a USC Viterbi STEM Spotlight event which brought them to 3 labs in USC’s Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
    • Students were led through several activities in the Chemical Engineering Instructional Lab. The focus was on the hands-on, active aspects of learning to be an engineer.
    • At the Graham Lab for research on molecular structures that drive cancer development, students learned about protein bonds by playing a mix-nmatch game with graduate research assistants.
    • The M. C. Gill Composites Center introduced students to different bonding techniques used to create carbon fiber materials. Students observed stress and damage test machines that yanked, smashed and punctured different materials for comparison studies. Each new rip and crash seemed to recruit another EEI student into studying materials engineering.
  • USC Viterbi Professor Jayakanth Ravichandran is including engagement with ESET EEI students and physics teacher Robert Hateley in a research grant application for National Science Foundation funding. Professor Ravichandran researches the development of new thermoelectric materials with the ultimate goal of increasing energy efficiency and creating sustainable energy sources. He will be working with Mr. Hateley and EEI to develop activities that will support students in designing and building thermoelectric conversion devices of their own invention.

Additional Youth Opportunity Fund supported activities: As a new program, EEI has benefited from opportunities to learn from several well-established organizations. Citi Community Development representatives James Alva and Jesse Mosqueda have introduced EEI to a growing network of experienced professionals and programs, many of which are fellow beneficiaries of Citi’s generosity

  • Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation Fall Economic Forecast: EEI Program Director, Mike Conway attended the event as the guest of Citi.
  • Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE): Estelle Reyes, Executive Director and Betsy Blanchard, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships met with a team from the Center for Powerful Public Schools. Ms. Reyes and Ms. Blanchard shared their expertise in program development while Center program associates shared opportunities for NFTE to deepen their work with LAUSD and Linked Learning.
  • Build LADCC: Veronica Soto, Manager of Special Initiatives, gave valuable guidance and shared her expertise in starting new programs.
  • Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit: Mike Conway, EEI Program Director, attended workshops on ongoing energy efficiency work in schools across Southern California

Current and Notable works in progress

  • Thursday, December 10, 2:00 – 5:00 – ESET EEI lighting exhibition and open house Work is underway at ESET EEI to develop their lighting exhibition with senior Steven Gutierrez heading the programming portion. An extremely skilled, self-taught programmer, he works regularly with fellow EEI members on building basic skills in programming with Python.

eei-8 eei-9