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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vote, Often, For Solar Panels For Parkway North

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Vote for us, darn it! - COURTESY WENDY LOW
  • Courtesy Wendy Low
  • Vote for us, darn it!
A few years back, Parkway North High School student Wendy Low and some of her friends thought it would be a great idea for the school to use solar panels to meet its electrical needs.

The administration was all for it.

Just one thing: Solar panels cost money, and the district didn't have much to spare. So their idea was tabled until recently, when the kids, along with science teacher Russell Barton, decided to enter the Pepsi Refresh Project.

The kids are in the running to get a $250,000 grant from the cola giant, which is giving out grants of various dollar amounts to the top vote-getting proposals. Right now, they're in fifth place out of the 1,000 proposals Pepsi accepts every month. The top two get the grants.

"It's ten students -- we don't know about marketing and all these different things," Low, a senior at Parkway North, tells Daily RFT. "We're the only group who has ever gotten on the leader board in the first month. We're competing against groups like the Humane Society and the ASPCA. They're all noble and fantastic causes, but they also have budgets for communication, and mailing lists."

"Everything that came up here was seeded by student ideas," says science teacher Barton, who's been helping the group with its efforts. The students have a lot of support from the administration, Barton and Wendy say. Indeed, the school's Web site urges visitors to vote for the team.

The school has also said that whatever money the district saves on energy costs will be set aside for buying more panels and getting all 30 of the district's schools fitted with them.

"It wouldn't cost any taxpayer money," Barton says. "We could use that as a way to advertise to other schools, 'Here's a way you could go solar with an initial $250,000 investment,' which is within the budget of many schools."

Low adds that if they get the grant, they'll seek matching grants from other sources.

The students have been on a campaign to get the word out to as many people as they can, using Twitter and Facebook and emailing everyone they could think of. The school has been exhorting students and parents to vote in all their official communications and during the morning announcements. A group of fellas even got the local Muggles involved, painting their bare chests with information on voting by text to the recent premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

So, how can you help? Vote, early and often. You can vote every day, and there are three ways to vote, so you really can vote up to three times a day. Text 104078 to PEPSI, install a Facebook application and vote through it, and create a Pepsi username to go to to vote for a coalition of ten different ideas whose sponsors have banded together to promote each others' proposals.

"We're trying everything we possibly can to get the word out," says Low. "We want it so much, we're so passionate about it. It's within our reach."

To learn more about the project and to see video the kids made, visit

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