You may know East Jordan Middle and High school teacher Matt Hamilton who started the famous East Jordan Shoe Club to empower students to do anything they set their mind to.
The idea started this summer when Hamilton was thinking of safe ways his 7th and 8th grade Shoe Club students could serve the community.
“Every year we do service projects where we go out into the community and volunteer and support different organizations,” said Hamilton. “This year because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to do any of that.”
He saw a video of a teacher who spearheaded a solar panel campaign at their school, and he thought that was the perfect thing for his students to do.
“It’s something that teaches these kids life lessons, it teaches them about renewable energy, and it’s also something that they’re able to give back to the school and leave a lasting legacy,” he said.
The goal of the EJ Solar Spark project is to raise $70,000 to install 71 30 kilowatt solar panels on the high school’s roof.
“This is something that kids are going to be learning about in every grade in our school district,” said Hamilton. “We’re planning on having the Shoe Club kids go to the elementary school and teach these kids about renewable energy.”
There will also be a website teachers can go to so they can teach their class how the solar panels are working in real time.
Hamilton brought in Ric Evans, who is the Principal Manager at Paradigm Energy Services, to provide insight into how to do this project.
“I was helping able to help kind of put them in touch with a lot of different installers, help with building the request for proposal, and some recommendations on where it would go,” said Evans.
Twelfth grader Nathan Newman and 10th grader Mailey Hamilton became mentors for the students.
Newman did the research on solar panels.
“I would go in and do some of the actual hands on work of getting that research, and then I’d be sharing it with students along the way, making sure they understood every step of the process,” said Newman.
Mailey, who is also Hamilton’s daughter, helped students create presentations and pitches to local organizations and businesses to raise funds.
“It’s incredible seeing the kids maybe nervous going into a presentation, not really sure of themselves, and coming out of the presentation like nailing it and feeling a lot more confident in themselves,” said Mailey.
One of those students is seventh grader Rylan McVannel. This is his first year in the Shoe Club.
“When I first heard about it, it got me on my feet,” said McVannel. “It sounded something big and fun and I like stuff like that.”
McVannel is excited for the impact this project will leave on his school.
“It’s not just a today thing, it’s going to last for years to come,” he said. “When people like me get older, we can look back on that and tell our kids like, ‘Hey I helped with that!’.”
The group has $15,000 more to raise by March 13. You can head to this link to donate.
The Shoe Club hopes to unveil their solar panels on Earth Day, April 22.