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Ceres High students take their green energy test on rooftop
[December 13, 2012]

Ceres High students take their green energy test on rooftop

LIVINGSTON, Dec 13, 2012 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Taking a test with pen and paper is one way to do it.

But for 10 Ceres High School seniors, finals came on a rain-soaked Livingston rooftop Wednesday morning.

The students, members of the school's green energy manufacturing academy, worked alongside professionals to install a solar electrical system at the home of a low-income family.

They are working with Grid Alternatives, a solar energy company based in Oakland that assists community groups, employers and schools, combining job training with helping low-income people save money through renewable energy sources.

"We're just out here to help provide labor," said Chris Van Meter, instructor in the Ceres High School program. "The kids do a lot of bookwork ... this is literally practical application of what they learn. They're doing great." The four-year academy teaches a variety of skills, ending with a focus on solar and other renewable energies in the students' senior year. The other 10 seniors in the program will work on an installation project next month, Van Meter said.

Izzy Villa and Gaby Chavez, both 17, worked Wednesday morning on an inverter, where the power from the solar panels is converted to the electricity necessary to power the home. The girls said they had learned valuable skills in the program that provide academic advancement -- Izzy is earning college credits through Modesto Junior College -- and marketable abilities.

And they have practical applications. "Izzy fixed her headphones," Gaby said.

The teens also learn how to do energy audits and how much power various appliances and lights use.

"My mom's like, 'Why are you fixing that ' " Izzy said. "It's because I know how." The solar panels likely will save the residents 80 to 85 percent on their power bills, Van Meter said. The couple who live in the home have some medical issues that require the use of more electricity than the typical household.

Up on the roof, several other students helped install racks that would hold the solar panels, then gently kicked them to check for stability.

Amoz Marshall said the program provided knowledge that likely will come in handy.

"I needed some skills for my toolbox," said the 17-year-old. "And in case I need to get into this, it's not a bad gig after high school." Mark Picero, at 16 the youngest of the crew, said the training and the exercise are a good fit for his long-term plan.

"I want to be an engineer, and this is a good way to get my feet wet," he said. And there's another perk: "It's fun to do." Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

___ (c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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