RFF Shout Out: Energy Convertors

15 Sep, 2021

RFF Shout Out: Energy Convertors

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Image courtesy of Energy Convertors

Energy Convertors was created in 2017 by founder Dr. Charles Cole III, as a direct response to his firsthand experience in schools. Throughout high school, Dr. Cole experienced a lack of counseling services to prepare him for graduation and eligibility to attend college. Instead, he relied on his own agency to navigate these requirements, working diligently to ensure transcripts aligned with the acceptance criteria created by California public universities. Dr. Coles’ experience is unfortunately the norm for many high school students. With clear cognizance of the direct correlation between student and family agency to high school graduation and college acceptance, Dr. Cole created Energy Convertors. The organization taps into the agentic powers of students and families, improving knowledge and capacity to navigate the roadblocks which students face. 

Logo courtesy of Energy Convertors

Energy Convertor’s approach is unique; Dr. Cole says, “We’re focused on the end user of education. Huge companies are obsessed with the thoughts and opinions of the end user, so why aren’t we? We ask students about what they enjoy or dislike about their school days, which teachers are their favorite and why, and what lessons engage them. There’s so much data to mine about the student experience, that we could actually create something that’s better.”

Energy Convertors presents youth with the opportunity to develop their own agentic goals, focusing on student empowerment in telling their own stories and advocating for their futures. Dr. Cole recognizes the value in student stories and voices. Much of this work is carried out through the Energy Convertors student fellowship program. Fellows create media using blogs, podcasts, and popular media platforms like TikTok, Youtube, and Instagram, and receive stipends to create content. Energy Convertors’ online magazine showcases some of their incredible work. Additionally, the entire group of fellows teams up to learn how to conduct research through a community-wide survey. With research results, they publish an annual report to be used by their community, in turn improving agency, knowledge, and capacity among the community.

Download this year’s report now.

This year’s report, just released last month, focuses on students’ experiences with A-G college requirements. The pairing of data with student voices make this report an incredible gift to the Oakland education community. The report is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to bridge the disconnect between high school graduation, and college readiness and acceptance for Oakland’s students.

When we had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Cole, we asked if Energy Convertors had 3 wishes, what they would wish. Dr. Cole responded:

  • to operate as a true think-tank, by giving families and students a full salary for their thought partnership and work
  • for the ability to compensate young people even more than they already do
  • to build up leaders in Energy Convertors. MarQuis Evans has been leading the work in Oakland. Dr. Cole hopes to build a team of leaders like Evans in the future. 

Image courtesy of Energy Convertors. Dr. Cole presenting A-G information to KIPP Bridge Academy parents at the Parent/Teacher Bonding Mixer.

When asked what drives him to do the work of Energy Convertors every day, Dr. Cole says, “I am the young people that we work with.” One of the highlights of working with students through Energy Convertors is seeing students realize the many possibilities for their futures. Through participation in the fellowship kids see “I don’t have to sacrifice who I am to be successful,” says Dr. Cole. 

If you’re looking for ways to support Energy Convertors and their mission, you should follow along with the work of the Fellows and lift it up by sharing it with your network!

Follow Energy Convertors on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Follow Dr. Charles Cole III on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and sign up for his newsletter.

By the way, Dr. Cole doesn’t just focus on students alone, he recognizes that their communities are one of their biggest and often untapped assets. So many of the answers educators seek lie in the hands of the community. The People’s Literacy Fund, created in collaboration with Educate 78, served this purpose by granting $100,000 in mini-grants to fund literacy solutions created directly by members of the Oakland community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to check out that work here.

Written and edited by Bonnie Look and Kate Ray.

Report Cover Image
Kate Ray joined the RFF team in 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kate spent two years as a middle-school science teacher, first in Fort Worth, Texas, and most recently in Oakland with Aspire Public Schools.
Kate’s favorite childhood book was Matilda by Roald Dahl.
Her hope for Oakland students is that each will be provided with the tools and support they need to develop and pursue their passions.
Bonnie Look join the RFF team in 2017. She designs and coordinates the implementation of the Foundation’s strategic communications, program operations, grants management and evaluation. Bonnie’s favorite childhood book was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Her hope for Oakland students if for each to realize their potential, to feel valued and loved, and have a hunger for continuous learning in school and beyond.