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BC Receives Grant to Study Energy Needs

Berea College’s Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS) has received a Learn and Serve America innovation grant for “Energy and Empowerment in an Appalachian County,” an initiative to study energy needs and assets in Madison County.

The integrated three-year community-based research project will bring together multiple community partner organizations and multiple academic departments with their specific expertise. This collaborative and coalition-based approach will produce data toward the goals of improving financial security of low-income families in Madison County; benefiting the environment by reducing demand for coal-based electricity; and empowering community members to become actively involved in transforming the policies, infrastructure, assumptions and behaviors that drive energy use in Kentucky today.

“Our community’s history and current situation call for a community-based approach to identify and develop strategies to help residents of our community save money and energy in the years ahead. A collaborative approach to researching energy needs and assets will bring together the resources of Berea College, the skills of community leaders who have been working to address energy issues and to empower local citizens for many years, and the grassroots knowledge of community members,” says Meta Mendel-Reyes, Director of CELTS.

Of nearly 100 proposals, Berea College’s project was one of just 10 selected for its innovation and potential contributions to the field of community-based research (CBR), which engages faculty, students, and community stakeholders in research projects that aim to affect social change.

Founded in 2000, CELTS coordinates service and service-learning opportunities at Berea College. The mission of CELTS is to educate students for leadership in service and social justice through promotion and coordination of service-learning, community service, and outreach. In keeping with Berea College’s strong history of service, faculty have been connecting their teaching with community service and outreach throughout the College’s history. Through collaborative service-learning and community-based research partnerships, college students and faculty have worked with community partner organizations to conduct research, gather data, produce educational materials, and implement projects.

In being awarded the innovation grant, Berea College joins the National CBR Networking Initiative, a larger network of community-based research practitioners funded by Learn & Serve America and spearheaded by Princeton University and the Bonner Foundation. This Initiative is coordinated by Princeton University’s Community-Based Learning Initiative and will generate a range of best-practice tools and resources, including websites, manuals, and data valuable to students, faculty, and the community. As one of 30 other institutions expanding its CBR efforts through the Learn & Serve America grant, Berea College has the opportunity to grow and strengthen CELTS through funding, as well share its work with other CBR practitioners nationwide.

Learn & Serve America, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, provides support to schools, community groups, and higher education institutions to facilitate service-learning projects.

“Service-learning helps America pursue some of its most critical goals, from improving academic achievement to helping youth from disadvantaged circumstances succeed in school and in life,” said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers Learn and Serve America.

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