College students work with former Indy mayor on sustainable energy plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  A group of college students is working with former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to design a sustainable energy plan for the state of Indiana. Ten students from the University of Indianapolis and two students from IUPUI are taking part in the internship program.

The students will present their final plan to lawmakers in April.

On Wednesday evening the students will host their second public meeting to get feedback and take questions.

“Our overall goal is to create a cleaner future for Hoosiers. We are millennials. We are the future of this state, and our goal is to clean up our act,” said University of Indianapolis senior Carly Nicholson.

The group is looking at how Indiana produces and uses energy now and how it can do better.

“Really bringing Indiana into the 21st century, regarding where we are powering our state,” said University of Indianapolis junior Rowen Pharrel. “Solar energy, wind energy —  so many different technologies available in the modern market that most of the state just isn’t aware of.”

Ballard said Indiana needs to adapt to changing technology.

“This is one of those issues where frankly, Indiana is — let’s be kind — we are not an energy thought-leader in the nation,” Ballard said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be. We have a lot of assets here. We have a lot of talent here that can move the state of energy in Indiana in a different direction.”

Ballard has been working with students to outline their strategy, but he is letting the students come up with their own ideas.

“He’s always pushing us to get out of our comfort zone, express our thoughts. He does believe that the youth and the younger people — their word actually matters,” said Sara Aljabbari, a University of Indianapolis graduate.

Ballard said he hopes lawmakers will listen to the students and want to make changes.

“This is the future,” the former mayor said. “These are the people who will be the future, who will be living in our state and in our country for the next 40 to 50 to 60 years. I’m hoping that this is one of those initial steps where people are going to listen to this generation and this group of students and say, ‘Maybe there’s a different path’ or ‘Maybe there’s another way to do this.'”

Ballard said he believes sustainable energy is not just an environmental issue, but a national security issue as well.

“Those who own the energy commodities dictate what happens around the world,” Ballard explained. “Maybe that needs to change. Maybe instead of seeing it as renewable energy, maybe we need to see it as locally-based energy. Maybe we can take care of energy within our own community, within our own state and within our own nation — maybe that makes us all safer.”

While they hope lawmakers put their plan to use, the students said the internship has already made a difference in their lives.

“I’m hoping to continue from here with environmental services,” Nicholson said. “Maybe not specifically energy, but I have found my niche through this internship and kind of where I belong — this realm of energy and communicating scientific ideas.”

“My lifelong goal is to go and build residential homes that are more sustainable to their surroundings,” IUPUI junior Lilian Nguyen said.

The group will host a public meeting at the Carmel Clay Public Library at 6:30 Wednesday evening. You can learn more here.

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