J-E eighth graders putting solar power, big savings into tiny homes for veterans

Local News

A group of eighth graders in Jordan-Elbridge are learning about entrepreneurship while giving back to Central New York military veterans.

The Young Entrepreneurs with a Social Conscience club, also known as the YES-C academy, is teaching middle schoolers with hands-on experience.

Currently in its second year, the club’s members are taking on solar energy.

They’re applying what they’ve learned about the cost and engineering of the alternative energy source and applying it to a Syracuse non-profit’s mission. The project is proving to be bigger than each club member imagine.

“They served us and they came home to nothing, so we wanted to give back to them and give them a place to live and energy,” said Alexis DelFavero, a J-E eighth grader and YES-C member.

The group is also working alongside a U.S. Army veteran who will soon move into one of the tiny homes being built on Bellevue Avenue in Syracuse.

“It’s definitely opened my eyes a lot about the world around us and how much there is to it,” said Madison Weir, a J-E eighth grader and YES-C member. 

Weir, DelFavero and their fellow club members say working together as a group of friends has been an enjoyable part of the process.

A Tiny Home for Good builds 300 square foot homes and then rents them to veterans facing homelessness.

“I remember when I was younger we had all these theoretical projects,” said Andrew Lunetta, the executive director of A Tiny Home for Good. “Even in college, we had these theoretical projects, maybe we’ll do this maybe we’ll do that. No, these young people said, ‘We’re going to do this,’ and it’s going to be some tangible difference that a Tiny Home For Good will benefit from. Our individual residents will benefit from as well.”

The YES-C academy recently started a fundraising page to raise money to pay for the panels and the installation. 

The tiny homes will be completed at the end of the month with the goal of installing solar panels by May or June of this year.

CNY Solar can estimate the energy usage after the veterans have lived in their tiny homes for a few months making the overall cost-to-savings benefit more accurate.

“Currently when you’re paying your electric bill, you’re paying 12 to 13 cents every time the meter starts,” said Jacob Smith, a sales representative with CNY Solar. “When you buy solar, you’re buying 30 years worth of power at about three cents.”

The group is working with CNY Solar, a veteran-owned company, which is also assisting in helping find ways to lower the upfront cost of solar panels.

According to Raymond Panek, a J-E teaching assistant who started the club, says the YES-C academy is being developed within Street Addiction Institute, INC., a Syracuse non-profit organization founded by Timothy Jennings-Bey.  

“It’s the young minds that are going to create social change. It’s the young minds that have the tools, the technology at their disposal,” Panek shared. “They’ve grown up with it at day one in their lives so they are really at the forefront of pushing creative visions and ideas.”

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