On April 4, 2017, I stood in front of thirteen politicians and began the most terrifying experience of my life. With shaking, sweaty hands I held a cardboard box stuffed to the brim with petitions and a document that contained a speech written on it in 12-point Times New Roman Font. I had been preparing for this moment for months. I took a deep breath, and when the timer planted on the podium began to count down from 180 seconds, I began to speak.
For months before that moment, our ACE Action fellowship program in the greater Raleigh area of North Carolina had been working on a campaign for Repower Our Schools. We began with a goal, seemingly simple but ambitious, nonetheless: get the Wake County Public School System to make a visible commitment to use 100% renewable electricity.
After learning how to effectively run a campaign, we decided that our best bet to meet this goal would be to petition. We set a goal to collect 1,000 petitions signatures by the end of March by the students, parents, and residents of Wake County. At first, we used paper petitions exclusively. However, an issue arose when we realized we could not get any signatures from people in areas outside of Wake County. For me, this wasn’t a very big deal. I lived in Wake County, so all of the signatures I was getting at school were from Wake County by default. Some of the other ACE Action Fellows either lived or went to school outside of Wake County and we wanted them to be able to easily collect signatures.
To combat this issue, we set up an online petition and started collecting signatures on the internet. We still weren’t able to reach 1,000 signatures, but we got 548, which was still a high amount and a lot more than what we had at the beginning of the campaign.
On April 4, I stood in front of the Wake County school board and delivered a speech highlighting the campaign and how using renewable energy would impact STEM education positively in our area. Other Fellows that night spoke of the monetary benefits, and the benefits towards the environment, so I wrapped things up by speaking of how renewable energy would impact students directly. When I finished speaking, I gave the petitions in their full cardboard box to the school board members.
Petitioning was tough. We didn’t meet our goal, but we still collected a lot of signatures. The members of the school board seemed pleased with everything we had accomplished, and I am excited to see what else they will accomplish in the future on the subject of renewable energy.