Brower Youth Awards

Jackson Koeppel

Highland Park, MI

Building community resilience through solar powered infrastructure

After participating in a five-day march against strip-mining Blair Mountain in West Virginia in 2011, Jackson Koeppel became committed to exploring alternatives to the extractive economy. While on a summer program in Highland Park, MI, that same year, Koeppel found a cause he could get behind. Highland Park is part of the Detroit metropolitan area and the city’s population had dropped by more 80 percent since the auto factories left the area. In 2011, about 1,000 of the city’s 1,500 streetlights were decommissioned by the local utility to ameliorate a $4 million municipal debt. Residential streets were left in the dark.

In response, Koeppel co-founded Soulardarity – a community organization that’s coordinating the installation of 200 solar streetlights and organizing a cooperative of residents, businesses, organizations, and institutions. The cooperative will maintain the streetlights with annual membership dues. The solar streetlights are affordable, environment-friendly, and provide a powerful avenue for engaging local citizens in conversations about sustainability and community resilience.