Student Widaly De Jesus Dipre Sosa clips on wires to power a miniature model town with electricity. (Kristin Moorehead/WUFT News)

Youth Energy Academy gets kids excited about energy


Duke Energy and Gainesville Regional Utilities partnered with two nonprofit organizations to hold a Youth Energy Academy event for underprivileged kids.

Eight middle- and high-school-age students from around the state gathered on Wednesday at GRU’s Eastside Operations Center to learn about the energy industry, as well as participate in activities like an electricity demonstration, a solar car race and virtual reality activities.

Claude Pinder is a GRU engineer and a founding member of the Florida chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, one of the nonprofits that put on the event.

“It’s important to get the younger people, the youth, to know that just around you, there’s something else that you can actually end up doing,” he said.

Pinder also emphasized that students don’t have to get a college degree to work in energy.

“The majority of people who actually work for GRU did not graduate from college. There are a whole lot of different jobs, but you just have to spread the word. And that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Student Jaylen Thomas-Bailey spins a hand crank that powers a miniature town with electricity. The demonstration was part of a day-long event to teach underprivileged kids about the energy industry. (Kristin Moorehead/WUFT News)

This was the first academy held in Gainesville, but Duke has partnered with AABE to put on these events in other cities for 12 years.

“What we’re trying to do here is plant the seed, so even if it’s not something that they come back and work for Duke Energy, we want them to be interested in the energy sector,” said Audrey Stasko, a Duke Energy spokesperson.

She said Duke is trying to expand the program into other cities and even other states.

About Kristin Moorehead

Kristin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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