Funds in the Sun


Kate Finman

Declan Hayworth speaks in front of the board to convince them to vote for solar panel construction on high schools in CUSD. Before winter break in December, CUSD unanimously voted in favor of the solar contract.

When Russell Tran was 14 years old, he founded the Ecology Action Team club at SJHHS, more commonly known as the EAT club. Tran envisioned solar panels on every high school in his school district.

Tran, now 17 years old, attends the University of Southern California, and his solar vision is now becoming a reality in our district. Construction for the solar panels is planned to take place during summer 2018-19 in the parking lots of high schools throughout the Capistrano Unified School District. 

The EAT club did not accomplish this goal alone. Their original team of 30 students expanded  to a multi-school organization, including clubs from Dana Hills High School, Tesoro High School, and San Clemente High School. They also formed a “crucial partnership with Berkeley-based nonprofit KyotoUSA via the magic of the Internet,” according to senior Declan Hayworth, Tran’s successor as president of EAT club.

The CUSD Solar Students, formed from the DHHS Ecology Club, THS Conservation and Ecology Club, and SCHS’s Blue Oceans Club,, launched an “online and physical petition (requesting the Board of Trustees to pursue solar) as well as website They publicized the campaign to increase pressure on the district,” according to Hayworth. 

In April of 2017, Tran passed on the mission to his friend and successor, Kyle Krueger from THS.”

In August of 2016, they presented a 1,400 signature petition to CUSD Board of Trustees on August 17, and they were met with lots of positive feedback.

In April of 2017, Tran passed on the his mission to his friend and successor, Kyle Krueger from THS because he was graduating from high school.

The Tesoro Conservation Club became the new center of the coalition working on the solar project. Krueger saw the project through until the end, when it was finally approved at the December CUSD Board Meeting.

One month after Tran handed the reins to Krueger, CUSD Solar Students spoke at the May 10th Board Meeting, and the Board voted unanimously to conduct and fund a solar feasibility analysis (SFA) with consultant ARC.

Over the summer of 2017, students formed a committee with the CUSD Facilities Department to oversee the SFA.

Research was conducted on the concerns of the board members about financing, the trees already in the parking lots, and EMF radiation in late November.” EMF radiation stands for electromagnetic radiation, and it can be extremely harmful if there is enough radiant energy in a concentrated area. It was found that there would be no safety hazard with the solar panels because there would not be sufficient radiation from them to cause harm to anyone near them.

Before winter break in December, CUSD unanimously voted in support of the solar contract. The solar panels are predicted to save over 21 million dollars after covering their own costs.

Daniel Goodin, Hayworth, Tran, and Alex Royal were speakers at the very first meeting at the CUSD Board Office advocating for solar panels.

The EAT club at SJHHS included: Zain Faruqi, Noah Villar, Josh Moran, Ryan Allen, Mihir Kulkarni, Payson Kirkham, and Goodin showed their support at the final Board Meeting in December of 2017, where the final agreement was made to start the solar panel construction.

Through perseverance and sheer determination, a 14 year old’s vision was able to become a reality and will benefit the students and staff at the high schools for generations.

All the information in this article is courtesy of Hayworth and Tran.