The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. CERTs is highlighting these leaders during the month of March in 2016, which is Women’s History Month.
As part of the series we interviewed Shelli-Kae Foster, Program Manager at Youth Energy Summit (YES!), to learn more about her work, what inspires her, and how other women can get involved in the industry. Read on to learn more!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in the energy world in Minnesota?
My job as Program Manager for the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) program involves supporting the teams and coaches who in turn support over 30 YES! teams across greater Minnesota. YES! teams are comprised of youth in grades 7 to 12 who work to be the change that is needed to build a clean energy future in our state. YES! students work on projects llike solar and wind research and installation, school site deep winter greenhouses, replacing parking lot lights with solar and eliminating tons of waste from the school’s garbage stream. One team replaced 731 of their school’s 32 watt light bulbs with T-8 28W ultra energy saving bulbs. Another team created an outdoor classroom in honor of a teacher who was battling cancer, and in 2014-15 teams collected 10,000 pounds of scrap metal, 8,000 plastic bags, 2,000 pounds of holiday lights, 1,700 pounds of shoes, and 181 cell phones. Click here to see more Information on team projects.
How did you get into this work?
I worked at Twin Cities Public Television as a television producer for environmental programming. Through a grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), as recommended by the Legislative Citizen’s Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), I produced segments for the program “Minnesota’s Environment and You,” which was syndicated through Newton’s Apple. From there I started working with businesses, organizations, and school districts to implement sustainable best practices. After working for years as a consultant in the field of sustainability I decided to pursue a degree in sustainability. In 2011 I earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from Marylhurst University in Oregon.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part of my job is working with a dynamic who are passionate about reducing waste and creating energy conservation solutions for schools and communities. The best time of the YES! year is when we recognize teams for their hard work and accomplishments. Staff go to the teams and present awards in person. It is wonderful to see their pride, knowing they have done something that will make a difference toward making their school and community a better place.
The worst part of my job is that I work at a computer for a majority of my day. I do a lot of grant writing and reporting and communicating with our staff that are located in different parts of the state, which means much of my time is spent with my computer. But, I think this is pretty typical of most jobs today!
What about your job inspires you?
The YES! students inspire me to keep working hard to support the program. The students are the force that will turn this state into a clean energy state with improved climate literacy. They will be empowered to make informed decisions towards climate adaptation methods. The lessons they are learning today that relate to project planning, leadership, budgeting, fundraising, and project implementation will serve them well as they become adults who are in charge of city planning, operating a business, teaching, and other important jobs.
Comments from YES! students and coaches that inspire me include:
- “You can think about saving energy or you can talk about it, but you really need to just get out and do something to protect the environment. I think that YES! is a great way to do that!” – YES! Student
- “It’s not just a school thing…it’s a community thing.” – YES! Student
- “I participate in YES! to make a difference in my community. There is no greater feeling than giving back to the people who support me so much” – YES! Student
- “YES! is the gift that keeps on giving because it connected us with the people and resources we need to get things done!” – YES! Coach
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?
Women with a passion and drive to improve the environment will find a career in the energy sector very rewarding. We all want our children to have clean water, fresh air, and to be able to explore natural habitats. Working towards this end is a great way to spend your working hours.
Right now is a historical time as leaders in countries around the world are entering into agreements on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy, and reduce waste. The time is NOW to take action on “being the change you want to see in the world,” as Ghandi is often quoted as saying.
Shelli-Kae Foster has been working in the field of sustainability for over 20 years. She started out her career working as a television producer for the series “Minnesota’s Environment and You” for Twin Cities Public Television. Since then she has worked for a variety of companies and organizations as a Sustainability Specialist, creating and implementing sustainable best practice strategies, including Tastefully Simple, Inc. and Alexandria School District 206. For the past 5 years she has been with the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) program as a regional Coordinator and now as the Program Manger. YES! is a statewide, award-winning youth-led program which engages youth to partner with their community to create economic and environmental vitality through hands-on learning and team-based projects. While working with YES!, the program won the Minnesota Environmental Initiative award in 2013 for Environmental Education. She earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from Marylhurst University in 2011 and graduated with a degree in Communications from Gustavus Adolphus College. She lives in Alexandria with her 3 sons and husband. She plans to continue to use her education and experience towards building a better plantet, one step at a time.
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For #wmnhist #IWD2016
mncerts</a> is highlighting 18 women leading MN's <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CleanEnergy?src=hash">#CleanEnergy</a> industry! <a href="https://t.co/N6dQ6gXx6U">https://t.co/N6dQ6gXx6U</a> <a href="https://t.co/q0ZWy51Iym">pic.twitter.com/q0ZWy51Iym</a></p>— CERTs (MNCERTs) March 1, 2016
|About the Author: Kathleen McGee is a freelance writer and content strategist for environmental organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.|
The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries during Women’s History Month.