Thoughts and Ideas Flow at Rain Barrel Workshops

Alyssa Burkot, Energy Corps member with the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia, shares her thoughts surrounding her recent rain barrel workshop presentation:

RBarrelIt was the first time I had spoke in front of such a large group. There they were, 65 people staring at me as they waited for me to begin my workshop.  Taking a very deep breath, I began my presentation on storm water management and rain barrels.  With each passing slide, I could feel myself gaining comfort and strength.  I had found confidence within myself and the knowledge I have gained about storm water during my time at ECA.  The audience made it even easier as they became very interactive after taking a small quiz on the subject matter.  Plenty of good discussion and questions arose after I revealed the answers for people were very surprised at the results.  As my presentation came to an end, I had several people approach me.  They thanked me for my presentation and told me how much they learned about storm water.  I felt a sense of relief.  Not only had I given a presentation in front of a large group of people, but I did it well.  I went on to hold two more workshops that same day.  My 8th grade self (the one that ran out of a classroom during my 3 minute speech) would have never thought this was possible.

My time with Energy Corps thus far has been a great learning and growing experience for me.  I began my term with Energy Corps in June.  Everything had happened so fast.  I went from an undergrad to a graduate embarking on a new journey with AmeriCorps as an Energy Corps member in less than two weeks.  I was quickly immersed into my new position here at the Energy Coordinating Agency and I started working with ECA’s Rain Barrel Program holding workshops for residents.  It is part of Philadelphia’s larger storm water management program that works under the water department.  I have learned that in Philadelphia, we have a combined storm water and waste water system.  When too much water flows into the pipes, they overflow and empty out into our rivers and streams.  This can have negative effects on the river structures and water quality, leading to an increase in flooding and water contamination.  The city of Philadelphia has been working towards decreasing the overflow into the rivers and streams by implementing rain gardens, green roofs, and of course, rain barrels.  Living in the city myself I have seen how quickly the streets become flooded during a rainstorm.

barrelsThe Rain Barrel Program offers free rain barrels to those who are Philadelphian residents and attend a workshop.  With each barrel holding 55 gallons of water and countless people receiving rain barrels, plenty of water is being kept off the streets and out of our storm pipes.  Holding workshops and tabling events about rain barrels has not only taught me about storm water management and improved my public speaking skills, but I have come to learn that storm water has direct effects and damages to people and their homes.

During my time here I have also found myself extremely busy planning ECA’s annual Sustainable Energy Conference.  As conference coordinator, I have outreached to experts in all different subject areas across the Philadelphian region to come and speak.  Their ideas, thoughts and information about sustainability, energy efficiency, affordable housing, storm water management, and low income home energy assistance is sure to create a stimulating event with plenty of information to be learned.  With elections right around the corner, the conference will also feature a town hall meeting with several gubernatorial candidates coming to speak about their position on Pennsylvania issues.

My Energy Corps term has been extremely rewarding, and I am only reaching my half way mark of service.  As I look back, I have already learned and gained a great deal from this experience.  I am excited to see what the coming months have in store for me as the conference date approaches, and as I begin my weatherization workshops where I will be installing weatherization kits and educating people about how to save energy in their homes during the winter.

member_alyssa-burkotAlyssa Burkot graduated from Salisbury University in May 2013 with a BA in International Relations and minors in Environmental Studies, Conflict & Analysis and History. Originally from Sinking Spring, Pa, Alyssa has studied abroad in Morocco and India. She has also traveled extensively throughout Europe. These travel experiences have given her world perspective and awareness of environmental problems. At the Energy Coordinating Agency, Alyssa will play an integral part in the planning and execution of a regional energy conference. She will also organize and conduct weatherization workshops for community members. She is excited to serve with Energy Corps at ECA in Philadelphia and to learn more about energy efficient technology.

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