Youth Corps educates young people in solar

When Niabi Huckfeldt dropped out of high school a couple years a go, she wasn’t sure where life would take her.

She had done some construction work before, she said at the site of what is expected to be Colorado’s greenest residential development—a Denver Housing Authority project near 20th Street and Park Ave. that is applying for platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. But she never really imagined learning to install solar panels and run electrical wire on construction sites.

Huckfeldt is one of 35 young adults participating in the Mile High Youth Corps’ YouthBuild program. The nine-month-long program includes two days a week of classroom work to prepare students for their GED exams and three days of on-site vocational experience that includes construction training and work.

The 18- to 24-year-olds in the program all dropped out of high school and were selected from a pool of over 300 applicants, YouthBuild program manager Eliska Champagne-Vaselka said.

“We were really looking for young people who showed that readiness to change,” Champagne-Vaselka said.

The program is one of several Mile High Youth Corps programs designed to put young people to work. Many of the Corps’ programs focus on green work—conservation and energy efficiency. But this is one of the Corps’ most comprehensive programs.

Program administrators recently forged a partnership with Namaste Solar and hosted the first of what they hope will be many solar installation training sessions.

Kristopher Sparks, the YouthBuild crew leader, recently ordered several solar panels and will get his crew started before the end of the year on building a practice roof for panel installations, he said.

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Pictured: Left to right: Gerardo Granillo, Alieshya Curry, Sonny Thach and Steven Martinez