In July, Aaron Backs officially joined the Metro CERT team as a brand-new (kind of) program associate.
Kind of – because he recently finished his year-long AmeriCorps term with Metro CERT as a Climate Impact Corps Sustainability Project Coordinator.
During his term, he most closely supported Metro CERT small business solar initiatives (particularly the Solar Energy Innovation Network, or SEIN, project), metro-area Manufactured Home Park (MHP) blitz planning, and facilitation of rooftop solar for an affordable housing complex in Frogtown Saint Paul.
For SEIN, Aaron participated in interviews with small businesses and solar installers and experts, developed communications for the team, and had a large hand in developing the sections of the final report related to incentive and financing options for rooftop solar for small and underserved Twin Cities businesses. He feels grateful to have been part of a team full of deep and comprehensive thinkers and community facilitators, and he would like to extend special thank yous to Matt Kazinka, Billy Weber, and Baba Letang for continued support and guidance during this project.
He wishes it was more difficult to say which part of his job was most fun (really – he loves all the work he’s a part of), but all involved with MHP blitz planning might agree it stands head and shoulders in the fun and feel-good department above the rest of the work they do. He supported coordination with electric and gas utilities, Community Action Agencies, and local park-based leaders and community organizations to distribute kits of energy efficiency materials and information to help residents save money on their utility bills. He would like to extend many thanks to Joel Haskard for his round-em-up attitude and especially to Alexis Troschinetz for not only her thoughtful MHP guidance, but also for her thoughtful career mentorship. To date, Aaron has helped serve a total of 250 units at Pine Village in Cambridge, MN and at Cimarron MHP in Lake Elmo, MN. Additional blitzes are planned at Cimarron, as well as at Landfall Terrace, Buffalo Manor, and Pulaski Park communities.
And lastly, to deepen some previous connections in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul, Aaron worked closely to connect residents with Inflation Reduction Act information through an article in The Monitor, and after a community needs assessment with neighborhood residents and leaders, to connect affordable housing complexes in the neighborhood with solar opportunities. He was able to help connect the Frogtown Neighborhood Association’s 652 Sherburne affordable housing retrofit with Cooperative Energy Futures’ Affordable Solar program, which can annually save residents ~35% on their electric utility bills. He would like to thank Patricia Ohmans, Executive Director of Frogtown Green, for her continued partnership and for being a great mentor and role model in community-based leadership.
Additionally, Aaron would like to thank: the five other Sustainability Project Coordinators serving this term with him, for great comradery, partnership, and friendship; the rest of the CERTs staff for a fun, inclusive, and collaborative environment; and, an especial heartfelt thank you to his supervisor, Diana McKeown for being a great working partner, for all the opportunities to develop personally and professionally, and for being extra in all the best ways possible.
Aaron is excited to continue supporting the Metro CERT region, and will continue to support projects with an emphasis on solar and energy efficiency for underserved communities.
Aaron graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Political Science from Macalester College in 2022. In his free time, he enjoys reading, biking, cooking with his six housemates, and doing crossword puzzles (he identifies as a cruciverbalist).