EDF Climate Corps – Creating a New Generation of Leaders

Tyrone Davis

Tyrone Davis

In his State of the Union Address last night, President Obama offered a new twist on the customary pronouncement on the nation’s health, saying “it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

Seated in the gallery with the First Lady were some shining examples of those citizens.  One of them was former EDF Climate Corps fellow, Tyrone Davis.

Tyrone is from Winston-Salem, NC, and has been legally blind since the age of nine.  Despite his vision loss, he ran cross-country and track in high school, and received a political science degree and Masters of Public Administration from North Carolina State University.  He developed an interest in environmental issues during his time as an undergraduate, which led him to apply for an EDF Climate Corps fellowship in 2010.

Like all of our fellows, Tyrone went through an intensive vetting, matching and training process before being placed at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college in North Carolina. There he showed the school how to achieve energy savings of more than $30,000 and nearly 200 tons of carbon emissions reductions annually. The school then hired him to complete a campus-wide sustainability plan, and, based on his work, incorporated sustainability into the school’s core mission. This is typical of the lasting impact EDF Climate Corps fellows have on the organizations they work with.

As inspiring as Tyrone’s back story is, it’s his future that gives me the greatest hope that we can solve the climate crisis.  Now in his third year at Elon University School of Law, Tyrone hopes to use his skills to benefit the environment and strengthen communities.  When I called Tyrone earlier this month to let him know he was being considered for a seat in the gallery, he was in Hong Kong meeting with business leaders about China’s environmental challenges.

Tyrone’s intellect, passion and expertise exemplify the kind of leadership that EDF is unleashing across the country through EDF Climate Corps.  Through this program, we are training and embedding hundreds of top-tier graduate students in organizations as dedicated energy problem-solvers.  There, they elevate energy management to a strategic business priority, and prove that energy savings and carbon reductions are consistent with profits and innovation.

As President Obama unequivocally said, climate change is a fact and the need to respond is urgent.  Through EDF Climate Corps, we are creating a new generation of leaders like Tyrone Davis who will drive the transition to a low-carbon economy and a stable climate.  Their work will ensure that the state of our union – and the health of our planet – remain strong for generations to come.