GETS Blog: An Unexpected Yet Amazing Journey

By Linda Chen, GETS Cohort, Fall 2015

Three months ago I was unemployed and unsure of my next step, a former teacher and baker with zero experience in construction, yet I had aspirations of becoming a carpenter. Today, I’m eight weeks into the GETS program, a tape-measuring, hammer-wielding, saw-operating badass, with a polished résumé, and a much clearer picture of where I see construction and solar fitting into my life.

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It’s been a long journey, full of important lessons and realizations, and an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m not gonna lie–nine weeks seemed like quite the investment. Back in August, I found myself at the West Oakland Job Resource Center, asking how I could get into the Carpenter’s Union, knowing that I had a passion for working with wood. I met Alex Francois (Founder/Director of B.U.I.L.D. Bay Area) for the first time that day, who introduced me to Rising Sun Energy Center’s GETS program. It came highly recommended, AND he told me they were going to be having an all-women’s cohort very soon. After hearing that, I jumped at the opportunity! I called right away, and was quickly able to schedule a time to come in for an info session, a pre-test, and then an interview with Melvin Parham, Case Manager extraordinaire at Rising Sun.

I was given the opportunity to either wait until March to be a part of GETS’ first all-women cohort, or to join the next co-ed cohort, where I was told there would be at least a few other women. Wanting to complete the program sooner rather than later, I chose the latter. But imagine my surprise when I showed up the first day and realized I was the only womyn in my cohort!

For the first couple of weeks, I felt super isolated. Everyday, I felt like I had to prove myself ten times over, and struggled with finding my voice and a sense of belonging in such a male-dominated cohort, in an already male-dominated trade. All of that changed when I was invited by Elena Foshay, GETS’ awesome Program Director, to attend this year’s Tradeswomen, Inc. Celebration Dinner. Being amongst so many powerful women that night, who had dedicated their lives to working and paving the road for other women in the building trades was not only refreshing, but empowering.

Early on in the evening, there was an older woman (pictured below), who sweetly invited me to sit at her table. I smiled, not knowing who she was, graciously accepted, and we proceeded to have the most tender exchange. She held my hand, encouraged me not to give up, and told me a story about how many years ago she met this small group of women in the trades who were struggling to find a safe and consistent space to meet. Eventually, due to her connections at the Department of Labor she was able to provide them with a space to convene and unite. Little did I know, I was talking to the amazing co-founder of Tradeswomen, Inc., Madeline Mixer.

I left that night with a sense of renewed hope. I held onto her words as I trekked forward through the next few weeks. What made all the difference from then on were the relationships that I started building with my GETS classmates:

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Armando and I got to weather-strip windows together on our day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Devoncia and I teamed up many times throughout the program to tackle class presentations for OSHA 10, energy efficiency, foundations, as well as a mini-home renovation for the large, wooden structure that we built together as a class.

George, Eric, Armando, David, and I spent a sunny Saturday together volunteering for GridAlternatives’ Solarthon, where we helped install solar panels for a low-income family out in Richmond.

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And then there were others, like Q, who I had the opportunity to work with on Tuesdays and Thursdays during math class. Kalima, who provided the class with comic relief from time to time, due to his amazing ability to fall asleep just about anywhere. And Shaq, who I would never trust with a sawzall, but who I could always trust to provide me with a helping hand whenever I least expected it.

As we found ourselves working closely in small groups to complete big projects such as re-roofing Grid Alternatives’ practice roofs, doing home energy audits, framing an 8’x6.5’x8’ room in the workshop, and going on field trips to places like the Iron Workers training facility, we grew tighter as a cohort, and I was subsequently able to find that voice and sense of belonging that I didn’t think I’d ever have during the beginning of program.

Now that we’re almost at the end of our nine-weeks, I want to give a huge shout out to the amazing support team here at Rising Sun, who have been vital to our sustainability throughout this whole process. Our instructors, John (Carpentry), Laura (Energy Efficiency), and Mich (Math) were patient, caring, kind, and knowledgeable in their fields. Our professional development, job readiness, & case management superheroes, Elena, Melvin, Alex, and Makena held it down for us, and made themselves available whenever we needed their support. Also, Jodi, Alison, Marrion, and the countless number of other Rising Sun staff/community members who offered their time and expertise to help us with mock interviews, and to offer us tips in the areas of job retention and self-promotion. It’s been a team effort! And it’s been so nice to be a part of a program where the staff truly cares about your success and holds your well-being in their hearts.

To end this lengthy blog post, I just want to say that we have no way of knowing where life is going to take us. Something that I’ve learned throughout my 28 years of life is that it’s okay not to know. That it’s okay to take chances, and even to change careers if you have to—especially if it means being happier. Whether my future lies in construction, solar, or something else, is yet to be determined. But what I do know, is that the skills and the knowledge that I’ve gained at Rising Sun are invaluable. These almost nine weeks have been life-changing, and an experience that I’ll take with me wherever I go. I’m forever grateful to my cohort and teachers, and hope that others who have even the slightest interest in construction or solar will explore the possibility of getting into the building trades through GETS. I mean really, what have you got to lose?


Rising Sun Spotlight: SunPower

By Marrion Johnson

Here at Rising Sun, we realize the importance and power of partnerships. Uniting with like-minded organizations means addressing environmental change on a multi-tiered front. SunPower’s focus on solar expansion directly aligns with Rising Sun’s goal of empowering people to achieve environmental sustainability for themselves and their communities. SunPower works with homeowners to install solar panels at affordable rates and at $0 down. Their process is easy, affordable, and reliable.

To Renée Solari, SunPower’s Program Manager for Education Services, Rising Sun’s California Youth Energy Services (CYES) program, which employs and empowers hundreds of youth to educate folks and make their homes efficient all at no cost, is right up SunPower’s alley. “We recognize [that] in our aim to support young people to have relationships in solar, solar doesn’t have a place unless we have a strong foothold in energy efficiency. [The] CYES program helps make that connection.”


SunPower has become an important part of our CYES program, providing resources to allow for the training of all of this year’s 180 Energy Specialists to provide solar assessments to homeowners served with the CYES Green House Call service. Last year, CYES piloted the solar assessment program in Antioch, and this year, with SunPower’s support, we were able to provide assessments to homeowners in each of the 20 cities we serve. Over 300 homeowners received a free solar report and those who qualified received a discount through SunPower for installing solar panels onto their homes.

In addition to working with Rising Sun, Renée explains that SunPower is invested in being a support system for STEM students: those interested in science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re in communities that are under-resourced. We provide support to the districts through work-based learning. We have a summer program where high school students get to see what it’s like to work in a solar company. They learn 21st century skills.”

The broad advantages of solar are a driving force for SunPower. According to Renée, “The way in which the US does business and moves forward, it’s not going fast enough to create an economy and life where we’re truly sustainable and equitable. Solar really responds to that. Providing the most basic thing you need. Immediately shifting from a fossil fuel to renewable energy economy. That’s why this is so important to SunPower. By going solar you’re stimulating a local economy.” And that sounds great to us!

Sign up for your free quote today. If you go solar before January 31, 2016, you may be eligible for a $750 rebate on your system. Visit for more information.

GETS Blog: One of the best things that has happened to me

By Alonzo Goodwin, Green Energy Training Services Participant

I’m a Green Energy Training Services (GETS) program participant, and I can honestly say that joining GETS may be one of the best things that have happened in my life. I joined the program after I heard about how the Solar Industry was taking off, and that I could help the planet become greener. GETS has provided me with so many things that I never thought I needed. Because of the program I now have OSHA 10 and MC3 certificates (see below). GETS has even opened many doors for me. Now I know what it takes to join labor unions, and I’ve learned a lot from the OSHA workers’ personal experiences.

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GETS participants at work in the classroom

The program also teaches us about the Carpentry and Solar fields. We met with a couple of supervisors at a carpentry business in Pleasanton, and we got to learn about the business. Personally, I came into the program with no knowledge on carpentry or solar and as a graduate I know more than enough to start a career with an entry level position at a construction or solar company. GETS teaches math, energy efficiency, solar, carpentry, safety laws and a bunch more. Next, I plan on exploring a solar career or joining a Plasterer’s Union. I’m not sure, but I’m glad I have options. If you’re interested in starting a great journey in your life, I would highly recommend joining the GETS program.

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GETS participants at work in the classroom


The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces.

The Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) is a nationally-recognized pre-apprenticeship curriculum developed by the National Building and Construction Trades Council

Press Release: Rising Sun Celebrates Graduation of Pre-Apprenticeship Workforce Development Cohort


Berkeley, California – October 29, 2015 – On Friday, November 6, 2015 at 3pm, Rising Sun Energy Center’s Green Energy Training Services (GETS) will celebrate the graduation of its fall cohort at Rising Sun’s headquarters in Berkeley. GETS is a pre-apprenticeship job training program for adults who are interested in starting a career in the construction, energy efficiency, or solar industries. After completing training, GETS participants benefit from ongoing case management and job placement assistance, as well as alumni events and resources.

Since 2009, Green Energy Training Services has offered courses aimed at creating pathways for low-income adults to enter the green economy. From the beginning, GETS’ impact on its more than 450 training participants has been unparalleled, with over 75% of graduates finding employment. In addition to gaining hands-on construction skills, earning OSHA 10 and First Aid/CPR Certification, and mastering skills in applied math and eco-literacy, this cohort has volunteered twice with Habitat Humanity working on affordable housing projects in Martinez, installed solar panels on low-income family homes in Richmond with Grid Alternatives, and has been introduced to pathways to apprenticeships with building trades unions.

Elena Foshay, Rising Sun’s Director of Adult Programs is thrilled for another chance to acknowledge the hard work of Rising Sun’s participants at graduation. “This group of participants is graduating at a time when the construction industry is booming.  I am so proud of their accomplishment and excited to help them reach their employment goals.”

Training is only the beginning of Rising Sun’s commitment to these graduates. The staff will be working with each graduate to help them identify and pursue job opportunities while overcoming any obstacles to employment success.  Additionally, graduation marks the beginning of a two-week elective course on solar installation offered to those looking to pursue a career in the solar industry. Class participants will receive an introduction to Solar PV Systems, hands-on-training in solar installation, and guidance on pursuing employment in the industry.

About Rising Sun Energy Center

Rising Sun Energy Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization headquartered in Berkeley, California, operating throughout California, in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Joaquin, Solano, and Sonoma counties. Rising Sun is a workforce development organization focusing on training, employment, and green career pathways for both youth and adults. Rising Sun Energy Center’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities. For information regarding Rising Sun Energy Center, please visit our website at

Press Contact:

Marrion Johnson

Communications and Development Coordinator

510-665-1501 ext 106


Press Release: Eek-O-friendly Halloween: Join Rising Sun Energy Center for tricks and treats to save water at home!

For Immediate Release – October 19, 2015

SAN RAFAEL, CA, October 21, 2015– Rising Sun Energy Center, a local non-profit organization that provides greater Bay Area residents with no-cost water and energy saving services, joins the San Rafael community to bring residents an Eek-O-Friendly Halloween. Rising Sun has teamed up with Project: Drop-A-Brick™, a maker of high-quality water displacement devises for toilet tanks. Rising Sun will be handing these water-savers out for FREE (a $15 value!) at the Downtown San Rafael Trick or Treat event on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 1pm at the San Rafael City Plaza. The event is organized by the San Rafael Business Improvement District.

Jodi Pincus, Rising Sun’s Executive Director, says, “As the water crisis in California continues to grow, we are looking to deepen our impact at both individual household and city-wide levels. Drop-A-Brick represents a fantastic opportunity for water savings through simple education and the installation of a water saving device.”

The Drop-A-Bricks save approximately half a gallon of water per flush! As part of the Eek-O-Friendly Halloween booth, Rising Sun will share easy ways residents can scare the drought by saving water at home. Bring your family for an afternoon of green, family-friendly fun. There will be games, treats, prizes, and more!

About Rising Sun

Rising Sun is a workforce development non-profit focusing on training, employment, and green career pathways for both youth and adults. Rising Sun Energy Center’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities.

For more information about Rising Sun and its programs, visit

Media Contact:

Marrion Johnson

Communications and Development Coordinator

(510) 665-1501 x.302