This is the seventh in a series of blogs celebrating grant projects funded under the Clean Air Act with the owners of the ED Edwards coal-fired power plant outside Peoria, Illinois. The settlement calls for the plant to close by the end of 2022 and provides $8.6 million for local job training, lung health, energy efficiency, solar energy and bus electrification projects. Each blog features the great work one of the township grantees is doing to promote public health and quality of life in the Peoria, Illinois area.
At Woodruff Career and Technical Center, a public vocational high school in Peoria, Illinois, teacher Michael Bricks invites a second group of students to a two-year Renewable Energy Training course funded by the Peoria Public Schools District (PPS). Edwards Settlement Fund. The training grant complements a second Edwardian grant that PPS used to install a solar array on the Center’s roof, and the students’ coursework will include inspecting the panels and supervising their work.
Solar panels on the roof of the Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria, IL.
Woodruff was built in 1937 and served as one of four comprehensive high schools operated by Peoria Public Schools until 2010. In 2011, it became a specialized career and technical school where students can take vocational and trade-oriented classes located in PPS’s three general secondary schools. Programs offered at Woodruff include construction, barbering, cosmetology, information technology and landscape design, among others.
The Renewable Energy Training course is designed to provide in-depth and hands-on training, and in each unit, students spend over two hours with Mr. Brix each school day. To complement the classroom sessions, Mr. Brix’s students organize field trips to look at renewable energy sources—solar panels being installed on 100 acres of cornfields, wind turbines operating nearby, an electric bus that recently launched with support, a separate one in Peoria’s public transit district (CityLink). From an Edwards Foundation grant and even an electric car Mr. Brix recently traded in for a truck. The course also provides students with internships to gain work-based knowledge in the renewable energy sector. The ultimate goal of the course, consistent with Woodruff’s mission, is for students to graduate ready to enter a two- or four-year post-secondary experience in a course-related field such as solar panel installation (construction), solar energy, or a living wage career path. energy monitoring (information technology), architecture or project management. With the growing demand for jobs in the renewable energy sector, Mr. Brix’s training at Woodruff should be invaluable to students.
Having worked in construction before moving into teaching, Mr. Brix is incredibly passionate about renewable energy sources and all that they offer to his students. His enthusiasm paid off; Every student in the first cohort of the Renewable Energy Training course chose to re-enroll and complete the second year of the curriculum. We thank Mr. Brix and the Peoria Public Schools for their investment in Peoria’s clean energy transition, and we look forward to where the students will spend their education after graduation.
Other projects funded by Edwards include a solar array at Peoria’s Romain Community Center for Arts and Culture; Expanding the job assistance program operated by Jubilee Ministries of Peoria; electric buses that two Peoria-area school districts are adding to their fleets; increased scholarship for PeoriaCorps’ Green Infrastructure training program; Launching a new all-electric bus for Peoria’s transit district; and training two yoga instructors at a local yoga studio. NRDC and its bidders selected the projects with the help of community partners Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Illinois People’s Action and the Peoria NAACP. For a complete listing of the project, visit EdwardsCleanAirSettlement.org.