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File photo
File photo

By Allison Jarrell

A coalition of student clubs within four Capistrano Unified School District high schools began petitioning this week to install solar panel arrays on every high school campus in the district.

The “Dear Capistrano Unified School District: Let’s Go Solar!” petition on launched Monday and had already garnered more than 180 signatures Wednesday morning from students, parents, faculty and supporters interested in reaping the benefits of utilizing solar energy in schools.

The San Juan Hills High School’s Ecology Action Team, led by sophomore and club president Russell Tran, has taken charge of the student-led movement with assistance from KyotoUSA, a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization that works with cities, public school districts and communities to develop strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Other clubs involved with the petition include The Ecology Club at Dana Hills High School, the Blue Oceans Club and SC Goes Green at San Clemente High School, and the Conservationism Club and Ecology Club at Tesoro High School.

Tran said the idea to encourage the district to install solar panels has been percolating since his freshman year of high school when the SJHHS Ecology Action Team was advised by their principal that such projects are usually implemented district-wide, not just at a single high school. He met with KyotoUSA representatives at a Bay Area ice cream shop last summer and learned about the pro bono advice they give to school districts regarding energy projects.

“You could say the revolution started in an ice cream shop,” Tran said.

The San Juan Hills sophomore designed the website, also launched Monday, which lists an array of facts about the school district’s energy use compared to the benefits of installing solar panels, including the increased efficiency and lowering price of solar technology.

He points to neighboring school districts in Los Angeles, Irvine, Newport-Mesa and Santa Ana that have successfully implemented solar array projects, and said following suit would mean helping the environment while cutting energy expenses and making a solid economic investment.

“The money saved can go back into our education,” Tran said. “In today’s world, it’s economically sound. That’s why we think the project will go far, because it’s backed by numbers.”

Tran said the coalition of students will present their petition to the CUSD Board of Trustees at a future meeting. In addition to signing the petition, he encourages students looking to get involved to join one of their school’s ecology or environmental clubs.

“Students represent the citizens of the next generation, so by getting students involved in activism or being proactive in society, we can build a better world that way,” Tran said. “We’re demonstrating what we learn in school about freedom of speech and democracy—we want to show the district that we’re taking initiative. We’re building our future now, because why wait?”

For more information on the student-led movement or to sign the petition, visit

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comments (1)

  • Global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat. It is happening now. Global warming has brought about major changes in global climate and, as a result of these changes, California is experiencing the worst drought in our recorded history, and it could get worse. Researchers from NASA, Cornell and Columbia universities are predicting an 80 percent chance of a mega-drought if climate change continues unabated.

    As the CUSD students have point out, “CUSD is not the first to go solar. Success speaks for itself: local school districts who have gone solar include: Paradise USD, Mt. Diablo USD,
    Berkeley USD, San Ramon Valley USD, San Francisco USD, William S. Hart Union High School District, Golden Valley USD, Santa Cruz City Schools, Milpitas USD, Antelope Valley USD, Riverside USD, Palmdale USD, Los Angeles USD, Redondo Beach USD Santa Ana USD, Poway USD, Sweetwater Union High School District, Newport Beach USD and Irvine USD.

    Irvine Unified School District began their transition to solar power more than a year ago. Overall, it is estimated that IUSD’s solar program will ultimately reduce energy spending by about $305,000 a year, with a projected 20-year savings of approximately $9.6 million. That kind of savings is nothing to laugh at. The program will free up money that can be better used providing a better educational environment, particularly in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

    The students might not be able to save the world on their own, but they are certainly taking the first steps in our community to mitigate some of the effects of global warming. The least we can do is to stand with them.

    Visit their web site at to learn more about their project and sign their petition. It’s the least you can do, then take it a step further and write your CUSD trustee John Alpay, Area 3 Trustee, Capistrano Unified School District, 33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 or e-mail him at

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