Harvest Preparatory School is the only full time nonpublic African American-centered elementary school in the State of Minnesota. It is part of the Harvest Network of Schools along with Best Academy, the Mastery School, and the Success through Educational Evolutionary Development (SEED) Academy—a preschool and daycare center adjacent to Harvest Preparatory.
The network was established by Ella Mahmoud and her husband Eric, President and CEO, and currently serves almost 1,100 students. They first started the SEED Academy in their North Minneapolis home in 1985 and later opened the Harvest Preparatory School in 1992, originally located on Golden Valley Road. Two years later, the school was moved to its current location, a former nursing home on Olson Memorial Highway, and finally became an accredited charter in 1998.
"I am so grateful that Xcel Energy has chosen to form a yearlong partnership with our schools," Eric Mahmoud said in an email. "It is always gratifying when a Minnesota corporation recognizes the importance of sharing their time, talent, and resources with the future leaders of our community; especially low income students of color."
According to Xcel Energy, in 2013 the company invested more than $1 million in grants for educational programs in math and science across the eight states that it services. Ensuring that students enter the workforce already equipped with the necessary STEM skills will allow the energy industry to shift from a system based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable resources. Xcel Energy already leads the nation in the amount of electricity generated from non-carbon sources. According to the American Wind Energy Association, over the last nine years Xcel Energy has been the largest producer of wind energy in the nation.
To kick off the schools' partnership, Lesa Clarkson, a former professor at the University of Minnesota and now a math teacher at Harvest Preparatory, led her 7th grade class through a series of equations to determine how much money they could all save by switching from traditional, incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The students were able to work out that if a classroom of 24 students all switched five light bulbs in their homes, they could save a total of $5,640 in energy costs over a period of ten years. Xcel Energy has been pushing for consumers to use CFLs instead of incandescent light bulbs because the wattage needed to light them is significantly lower. The only drawback is that CFLs contain mercury and must be properly recycled.
In addition to supporting educational programs, Xcel Energy claims to be pursuing efforts to increase the diversity and inclusiveness in its workforce. Despite these efforts, according to the most recent Corporate Responsibility Report, which includes statistical data from 2012, only 2.2% of Xcel Energy's employees are African American and 11.3% make up the other non-whites. Even though the company has a poor history of hiring African Americans, Eric Mahmoud remains optimistic about the partnership with his schools.
"[The Harvest Network of Schools looks] forward to learning how to make our buildings more energy efficient and our footprint on the community greener and more environmentally friendly," Mahmoud said. "Who knows, one of our students could be a future Xcel Energy scientist, engineer, or CEO? We are certain that this partnership will plants seeds in our students about possible careers in STEM and will pay dividends many years into the future."