This post is part of the ‘Meet A GIC Volunteer’ series that highlights outstanding volunteers through their involvement with GIC and in their community.

Meet Begoña Blasco.

An architecture graduate student at Catholic University of America, Begoña – in just one semester – conducted energy assessments for 30 local businesses, won a city-wide sustainability competition, led an initiative to make campus buildings more energy-efficient, had companies knocking down her door to interview with them, and became the first -ver student on Green Impact Campaign’s Advisory Board.

Begoña is not only the most impactful volunteer that we’ve ever had, but she is one of the most inspiring students that we’ve ever met. Her attitude, her leadership, and her professionalism will blow you away within seconds of meeting her.

This is her story and how she got to where she is today.

A Dream, A Trip, and A Degree

Begoña came to the U.S. from Peru with her family, mother, and brother when she was 13 years old. After attending middle and high school, she graduated from a community college and started working as a server in a restaurant.

“My dream was to one day become an architect, this I knew from a very early age, but because of financial reasons, that goal was delayed,” says Begoña.

Begoña recalls that her passion for architecture started from her childhood, when a beloved uncle, an architect, would make time to explain to her the house layouts he worked on, would ask for her opinion on the design, and even take her to sites.

“I know that my answers didn’t make a difference, but I remember feeling so important at the time.”

It wasn’t until a trip back to Peru at the age of 17 when she knew architecture was what she wanted to do the rest of her life. During that trip, Begoña recalls realizing the tremendous difference of how people live and interact in each country, “I learned that architecture influences how humans carry their day-to-day lives, whether people interact with neighbors or live independent and isolated, whether people go to places because they evoke feelings of happiness or calm, etc. It was then that I realized the important role of architects in helping shape society, and I knew that it was through my work in architecture that I could eventually help and make the most difference.”

After working as a waitress for two years, Begoña’s aunt made it her goal to show Begoña the importance of continuing her education and finding alternative ways of financing her education to pursue her dream.

“I started looking for schools and applying for scholarships, and four years later, I can say that it was one of the best choices of my life.”

Today, Begoña is a semester away from graduating with a Master’s in Architecture with a concentration in Urban Practice and a Master’s in Sustainable Design from Catholic University of America with plans to work for a sustainability-focused architecture firm in the DC area.

I am aware of the impact architects have in society; a community can be shaped to interact with one another, or not, it can also evoke positive or negative feelings, directly influencing humans and their lives, which is why good architecture is such an important component in our society. Through my career I hope to make conscientious decisions, to always be socially responsible, and to have my designs and architecture positively influence our society.”

The Impact of Student Energy Assessments

Begoña first learned about Green Impact Campaign in the spring of 2015. Being the president of the ASHRAE student club at CUA, she was eager to get her club involved. “Sustainability is a subject embedded in almost every class in our architecture department, so given the opportunity to practice what professors have preached sounded like an excellent idea.”

That spring, Begoña organized and led her team in competing in GIC’s city-wide energy audit competition in DC called Power to Save. The CUA team got third place, conducting energy assessments for nine local businesses, and took home $250 in prize money. Begoña used that money to finance her club being able to go to the national ASHRAE conference that year.

Leading the efforts, Begoña found success in taking a team approach to the competition, “I thought it was really fun to plan our “energy audit days” with my classmates. Thinking and planning how we would approach businesses, then getting there and forgetting the script, it was nerve-wracking but fun. Those days always ended with a trip to a restaurant to celebrate the energy audits accomplished that day,” recalls Begoña.

But Begoña and her club weren’t done yet.

The following fall, GIC hosted another city-wide competition called Kilowatt Smackdown in Takoma Park, MD. Once again, Begoña signed her team up to compete. And did they ever compete.

In just six weeks, Begoña personally conducted 28 energy assessments for local businesses, winning first place in the competition. She also led and coordinated another 20 assessments that were completed by her fellow club members. Along the way, Begoña received every competition prize possible, including a $3,000 scholarship, an internship with the City of Takoma Park’s Sustainability Office, and informational interviews with three of DC’s top sustainability firms.

completed energy assessments

kWh of energy savings identified

energy cost savings identified

gals of water savings identified

Within days of the winners being announced, Begoña was getting inquiries from sustainability and energy companies asking if she’d be interested in an interview for a job, “just adding my participation to my resume and LinkedIn generated some job opportunities that I never even considered before,” explains Begoña.

But prizes and job offers aren’t the only thing Begoña took away from her involvement. She took the knowledge she gained a step further and began applying what she learned through the assessments to her campus.

“After the Kilowatt Smackdown competition, our CUA-ASHRAE student organization led a town hall meeting in which we introduced and educated our classmates on recycling items specific to our degree.” The town hall meeting led to an overwhelming adoption of the idea and new signage being posted above all waste and recycling bins (shown on the left).

Begoña and her team kept the momentum going by proposing energy saving recommendations for the architecture building (a LEED certified building). They proposed reducing the amount of overhead lighting and offsetting the necessary lighting with the use of task lights at student work stations – something the team learned while conducting energy assessments using GEMS.

Once again, the idea and plan was well received by university administrators and students and was implemented the next week (video on the right). “Everyone was willing to give it a week trial, and now almost two months later, we have not heard one complaint and we are continuing to implement turning off the extra lights in this building.”

What Begoña has accomplished and brought to her classmates, student club, campus, university and community are all incredible on their own. But it’s Begoña’s character that really leads us to believe that she is going to go on to do amazing things in her career. And we can’t wait to see it.

“I believe my experience with Green Impact Campaign has broadened the scope of possibilities for jobs as well as given me amazing connections for my future in the field.” -Begoña Blasco

So what’s Begoña’s advice for other students?

“First, I would encourage students to get involved with GIC; one cannot really predict the outcome and the great experiences that may come out of this until one does it. You never know who you will meet along the way, and this experience exposes you to meet great people that may help you later on in your career, and definitely job opportunities. Second, don’t be afraid of rejection. The audits required that we approach as many businesses as possible, and more often than not business owners turned me away. At the beginning it was hard, but later I learned not to take it personally and changed the way I was approaching these businesses until more often than not I had positive responses from them.”

Begoña is one of many students that have been involved with Green Impact Campaign and impacted local business, their community, and their careers. If you’d like to support students like Begoña have the opportunity in getting involved with Green Impact Campaign, please consider making a donation.

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ABOUT GREEN IMPACT CAMPAIGN

Green Impact Campaign (GIC) is on a mission to reduce the environmental impact of small business while better equipping the next generation of climate leaders. We provide university students across the country with cloud-based tools and training to go out and conduct free energy assessments for local, small businesses in their community. Small businesses receive the custom, actionable information they need to make their business more energy efficiency and profitable. While student volunteers receive professional skills through hands-on experience for future impact careers.

Kilowatt Smackdown is our regional competition series where we select one community, town, or city to focus on. We work closely with local universities and partner organizations in the community to host an impactful and exciting sustainability initiative.

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