Who: Brianna Besch '13
Hometown: Cairo, Egypt (Besch's father worked for USAID in Cairo; the family previously lived in Kazakstan, where her mother was country director of the Peace Corps)
Majors: Environmental Studies and Geography
What's that? Grand Aspirations is a program which brings youth leaders from across the country together to do sustainable community development projects around climate, energy, economic security and social justice problems. Grand Aspirations serves as an incubator or “think-and-do tank” for bold grassroots initiatives that would otherwise have no institutional infrastructure.
How did this start? Grand Aspirations started just two years ago, having grown out of grass-roots initiatives by a group of Mac students involved in MacCARES. Since its first program in the Twin Cities in 2008, Summer of Solutions has grown to include 12 programs located across the country,.
What are they doing? In the Twin Cities, 35 high school students, college students and recent graduates who make up the working group (15 of whom are full-time volunteers) are working on such projects as:
- Cooperative Energy Futures, a cooperative, also founded by Mac students, that aims to use the power of community to create economic opportunity though energy efficiency and to empower people to implement climate and energy solutions. This summer they are working to create a local sales team in the inner city Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis to sell energy efficiency kits and train residents on simple home efficiency solutions.
- The Alliance to Re-Industrialize for a Sustainable Economy (ARISE) is a coalition of non-profits, labor groups, students, city officials, and community members working to build sustainable communities centered around green manufacturing in St. Paul and beyond. One site they are developing plans for is the old St. Paul Ford plant site on the Mississippi River. They are also creating a template for other potential sites across the country
- Urban gardening in the inner city Harrison Neighborhood of Minneapolis
- Partnering with Sibley Bike Depot to support their programming to increase bike access and connect with the local community
What Besch is learning: “We’re learning to facilitate meetings, connect with people, and fundraise. Our group is experimental and solution-oriented. In just a month, my entire way of thinking about energy and food systems and business has shifted. It has been a great experience.”
After Mac? Besch’s parents met as Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland. She hopes to follow them into the Peace Corps, and then attend graduate school to prepare herself for a career in international development with an environmental focus.