A group of nine senior high school students from the Kinlani Boardertown Dorm are hoping to bring their solution to the possible 2019 closure of the Navajo Generating Station to the public at the National Energy Education Development Youth Energy Conference in Washington, D.C. in June. But they need help getting to the conference.
The students learned about the possible early closure of NGS from the news. They decided to use the issue as topic for their NEED Native American Energy Advocates Project.
“It’s a problem for Page and the Navajo nation,” said Shayla Naswood, one of the students.
The closure of the plant represents the loss of around 800 jobs at the plant and the nearby coal mine that supplies the plant with fuel. Most of those jobs are held by people who live in the Navajo or Hopi nations.
Naswood said the students focused on solutions that would provide both jobs and energy for the nations on a longer-term basis and would be more environmentally friendly.
The students worked on their project in their free time after school and on early release Wednesdays, said Anderson. Seniors at the dorm always try to find a project that they can work on during their senior year, a kind of capstone project to polish off their high school years. Students who live at Kinlani Dorm come from tribes all over Northern Arizona. Free time is very rare at the dorm. Students who live there have a schedule of chores and study time they have to follow during the week and many make the trip back to their homes on the weekend.
The students had to submit a detailed plan about how they would research the project, teach others and find the best solution environmentally, economically and politically for the problem.
Finding the political part of the solution was the hardest part, said Rachel Yazzie.
A mix of solar, wind and coal seemed to be the best, said Aleesha Begay. The plant could use wind and solar to generate power during the day and coal at night. The construction and operation of the wind and solar part of the plant would protect some jobs that might be lost with the closure of the plant. They’re still working on their solution for the closure of NGS, because the situation keeps changing, she said.
They also wanted to learn about energy and become energy advocates for Native American people because a number of Native American lands have rich energy resources, like the coal and uranium found on the Navajo and Hopi lands. There’s about 250 years of coal left on Navajo and Hopi lands, Shania Atene said.
“Our dream was to learn about energy and how to use it wisely,” she said. “We believe energy education can benefit all of our lives.”
The students used the information they learned about energy sources and renewable energy to teach elementary school students and their high school peers. They made a model wind turbine and held a debate over which energy sources were best.
They collected information on NGS and other power plants and put together a binder listing the trends in the use of energy sources, costs and environmental problems caused by energy sources. They talked with county, state and federal level experts and politicians about NGS and what its closure might mean.
Their project ended up being selected as NEED’s National Special Project of the Year, earning the team a $3,000 stipend to the NEED Youth Energy Conference and Awards in Washington, D.C.
But $3,000 doesn’t go far in planning a trip for nine students to Washington, D.C. said student advisor Vicki Anderson. The students are trying to raise additional funds to get themselves to the conference. People wanting to donate to the students can call Theresa Boone-Schuler at Kinlani Dorm at (928) 774-5279, ext. 202.