Three Ransom Everglades students stood in front of the school’s 30-member board of trustees with talking points, a detailed plan and a short video presentation. Calling themselves Students for Solar, the teens took turns speaking, explaining why bringing more solar energy to Ransom Everglades – eventually turning RE into a “solar school,” a school powered solely by the sun – would be good for the planet, the RE community and the school’s bottom line.
The students, Madison Munroe ’22, Wirth Munroe ’22
and Julian Stancioff ’22
, acknowledged at the Jan. 25, 2020, board meeting at the upper school that the up-front costs were high, and their ambitions would take years to fulfill. But in the final slide projected to the board members, the students made this plea: “Support us!”
The RE board of trustees did just that. On the spot.
As the Students for Solar prepared to depart, Ransom Everglades Board Chair Andrew L. Ansin ’81
made a motion that the RE board resolve to include solar panels on all new construction. The motion passed unanimously.
“The Board of Trustees was very impressed by the presentation given to us by Students for Solar,” Ansin said. “They had done their homework. They made a compelling argument for the economic benefits for solar and argued that RE should be a leader in this area.”
The student group, which also includes Daniel Stancioff ’23
, who missed the board meeting because of an RE soccer game, couldn’t believe action had been taken so quickly.
“It was completely unexpected,” Julian said. “We weren’t expecting an immediate anything.”
Added Madison: “We didn’t know what the result would be, so it’s really cool to have that happen.”
Swayed by the students’ presentation, the RE board also was motivated to build on its recent sustainability efforts. In spring 2019, solar panels were installed on the Hogan Building at the middle school. The new STEM Center at the upper school is designed to include an array of solar panels on its roof – with room to add more. As the school’s REinventing Excellence
campaign continues, there will be additional opportunities for solar as the school executes plans to add a new dining hall on the La Brisa property, rebuild Ludington Hall, refurbish the La Brisa house and renovate the current dining hall.
Students for Solar shared with the board that nearly 5,500 schools in the United States are solar schools, but there are none in Miami. The teens, inspired to pursue solar at RE after their families installed solar panels on their homes, projected that RE would save $500,000 annually in electric bills if it converted entirely to solar.
“We wanted to show the board all of the benefits of this, because a lot of people hear about solar panels and they think they’re not very efficient and really expensive,” Madison said. “We wanted to clear up those misconceptions because then it becomes like a no-brainer to use solar panels.”
The teens’ first goal – and a critical first step toward their ultimate objective of making RE a solar school – is to inspire the projected $500,000 in fundraising needed to make the STEM Center solar dependent. They estimate that it would take $2 million to make the upper school fully solar powered. The middle school would require additional funds. The students are off to a strong start; their parents have already pledged financial support. But they know much work remains.
“We want to get the majority of money from donations from parents and alumni,” Madison said, “because bake sales won’t really put a dent in the amount of money we need.”
The students hope to continue to inspire action; RE’s advancement office has pledged to help with the technical aspects of the fundraising effort. The teens vow to pass the mission on to students who come after them at Ransom Everglades to ensure it reaches completion.
“The timing is perfect given the nearing completion of the STEM Center,” Ansin said. “We view this effort as very complementary to the advances RE is making in the sciences and a great experiential learning experience for RE students.”
Students for Solar requests that anyone interested in supporting the solar initiative reach out to RE’s Acting Director of Advancement Julie Rosenfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.