I remember how exciting I thought it was when I saw the dozens of wind turbines rise on farmland south of my hometown of Colby, Kansas, a few years ago.
Colby is a small town without a lot of industry. So when ENGIE North America began constructing the wind turbines as part of its Solomon Forks Wind Project, and paying farmers for the use of a small part of their land, it brought a real economic jolt to my community.
But I didn’t realize at first how much ENGIE — and renewable energy — was going to change my life.
I was a junior at Colby High School when the wind turbines first started going up. By the time I was a senior, I was taking a renewable energy class offered at my high school in partnership with Colby Community College. I loved it. And about two months after that class finished and I had graduated from high school, I was awarded ENGIE’s Solomon Forks Wind Project Scholarship to pursue an associate of applied science degree in sustainable and renewable energy at Colby Community College.
ENGIE provides four $2,500 scholarships each year to students enrolled in the renewable energy program at the community college. The company has pledged to provide a total of $100,000 in scholarships to help support local students at CCC. Along with a few other smaller scholarships I earned, the ENGIE scholarship is allowing me to get my community college degree completely debt free.
But the scholarship has meant much more to me than that.
Before this, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in college, or with my life. The phone call telling me I would be one of the recipients was answering a prayer for me.
It was someone saying: ‘Hey, here’s an open door for you.’ It provided me with a real direction, and helped to jumpstart a passion I now have for solar power, for wind power, for all renewable energy. The industry is likely where I will spend the rest of my career.
And for me, it’s more than just a future career.
Renewable energy just feels like the perfect fit for me. It will allow me to be a small part of a revolution in the world’s energy use — away from depleting energy sources that cause pollution and accelerate global warming, toward energy sources that help the planet. My career in renewable energy will help me make my mark on the world. And when I’m old and retired, I will be able to say I did things to change the world for the better.
I’m reminded every day of how ENGIE has helped Colby. Not only do I see the wind turbines spinning every day. But my stepfather is now in the same program I am in at Colby Community College. He hopes to someday work for ENGIE at the Solomon Forks Wind Project. We will walk together at Colby Community College graduation ceremonies this spring.
And about my dreams? After earning my associate’s degree, I’m hoping to enroll at a four-year college in Kansas and complete a business degree. Then, I hope to use both degrees to pursue a career in renewable energy. It might be in sales — where I can share my passion for renewable energy with everyone.
None of this would have been possible without ENGIE’s scholarship. ENGIE provides the scholarships hoping to motivate students to get interested in renewables, and to give young people like me an opportunity to change the world in an industry we believe in.
For that, I’ll be forever grateful.
By Kainin O’Malley