15 Sep, 2021
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.