CBIA’s 198th Annual Meeting and Reception in Hartford last night turned out to be a special occasion for a group of students from Hartford Public High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology.
In a truly inspirational moment, the students received a thunderous standing ovation from the more than 500 business leaders and state officials in attendance when they were introduced by the chair of CBIA’s board of directors, Don Droppo, Jr., president and CEO of Curtis Packaging in Sandy Hook.
What had the crowd standing and cheering?
The AoEGT students were the key players in the engineering and construction of a unique solar-powered wind turbine designed to bring electricity to a school in a remote, windswept village, 13,000 feet up in Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains.
A Remarkable Alliance
In October, the turbine was delivered to the Sherlri Drukda Lower Secondary School in Saldang, Nepal, and installed by volunteers from the U.S. and Canada and local villagers. For the first time ever, students there were able to learn in warm, brightly lit classrooms, and even use laptops.
The Nepal wind project came about through a remarkable alliance of the high school students, Connecticut businesses, CBIA’s Education Foundation, the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program (CPEP), and Peter Werth, director of the Werth Family Foundation.
Werth, who envisioned the project and shepherded the turbine on its 11,000-mile trek from Hartford to the Himalayas, said that the Hartford students made all the difference.
“The kids did a wonderful job. I was there at the install, and what they did, the manuals they provided, the workmanship, the equipment—it was spectacular," he said.
"We went in absolutely blind. We basically went in totally as amateurs and rookies. At last report, [the turbine] was working flawlessly, and now we’re thinking of other projects for the future.”
AoEGT principal Michael Maziarz [pictured above with Werth, Droppo, and some of his students], who was presented with a $2,500 check from CBIA to help fund future projects at the high school, told the Annual Meeting crowd that the kind of school-business partnerships that made the Nepal project possible can be life-altering for students.
“Part of our model as a National Academy Foundation school,” said Maziarz, “requires that we have an advisory board made up of local business partners, that we provide our students with work-based learning experiences in the community at businesses and industry.
"These are the connections that change lives. When business and education marry the way they have in this project, we begin to give students a vision into their future.
"It’s really capacity-building, not only for our kids…but also, they’re working on being in your companies, being skilled employees years before they even get there.”
Video Tells the Story
A video produced by CBIA chronicled the design, building, delivery, and installation of the wind turbine, and clearly illustrated that the Nepali students weren’t the only young people who benefited from the project.
“Prior to this project, I wasn’t patient, I had so many difficulties…academically and behaviorally—I was not the best student,” said AoEGT student Jazzmin Mitchell.
“But this project taught me responsibility. I would love to meet these people [in Nepal], and I don’t want them to be, like, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. I want to thank them for allowing us to come into their community and help them.
“Don’t stop, either. Things might be getting rocky now in our schools, but don’t stop, because things like this, the project that we did, come from you believing in us.
"When things get rocky, please don’t stop. We’re worth it, and thank you for believing that we were worth it in the beginning.”