Cuesta College announced Friday plans to open a Sustainability Resource Center this year.

The Cuesta Sustainability Resource Center will be fully operational and will integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based sustainability through the San Luis Obispo County school systems, P-16 and the local community, Lauren Milbourne, a Cuesta College spokesman, said in a news release.

The center, which will be located on Cuesta College’s North County campus, will provide resources and training for teachers at all grade levels and delivery of sustainability learning modules to students both at Cuesta College and local schools.

“We are thrilled to have our vision for a sustainability center at Cuesta College become a reality,” said Derrick Lavoie, a biology faculty member at Cuesta. “The CSRC has the potential to become a significant seed of sustainability, which we envision will grow and branch out to all areas of our community, bringing knowledge, skills, awareness, inspiration and connectedness among many disciplines.”

At the K-12 level, the center will offer hands-on student-centered learning strategies to teach motivational sustainability curriculum, primarily focused on alternative energies, that address state and national STEM-based sustainability standards. At the community level, it will offer a variety of sustainability programs, fairs and events.

Lavoie said the ultimate goal is to educate all citizens of San Luis Obispo County in sustainability practices and concepts in order to move toward a more sustainable economy, environment and society.

The Atascadero Unified School District will be the initial recipient of the center’s work and plans to partner in the future with any renewable energy projects that result.

“I sincerely appreciate the valuable input we are able to provide to ensure this experience is one that prepares our students for 21st-Century skills using Common Core State Standards,” said Kathy Hannemann, assistant superintendent of educational services in the Atascadero Unified School District.

Grant funding provided by MidAmerican Solar, SunPower power plant solar solutions and NRG Energy financed the project. Milbourne said in the release that the project will be administered by Cuesta College Workforce Development and Community Programs and is fully funded for seven years.

“Cuesta College is thrilled to be a part of this project,” Cuesta College President Dr. Gil Stork said. “It is our intent to work with our K-12 partners to disseminate high-quality sustainability education to all grade levels and schools in San Luis Obispo County so the principles and best practices of sustainability become systemic throughout every aspect of our educational system.”

The Conditional Use Permits of the utility-scale solar power projects on the Carrizo Plain, developed by SunPower, NRG and MidAmerican Solar, stipulate the establishment of a renewable energy and sustainability educational component for San Luis Obispo County.

“We have great expectations for the center,” MidAmerican Solar General Manager Neal Poteet said. “We have confidence in the future success of the center and its benefits to the local community.”

The Cuesta College Planning and Budget Committee voted to support the CSRC at its meeting in November 2012. Milbourne said in the release that no Cuesta College District funds will be expended and there is no obligation for Cuesta College to maintain the project; however, future funding will likely be pursued.

“We are happy that we are in such an enviable position to give back to the county and community that welcomed and supported our project which will provide clean, sustainable energy to the region,” said Randy Hickok, senior vice president of NRG Solar Asset Management.

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