By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
The Achievement Centers for Children & Families in Delray Beach were abuzz with activity on Aug. 1 as more than 150 FPL and NextEra Energy, Inc. summer interns spent the day beautifying and renovating the facility, both inside and out.
The volunteer effort, coordinated with United Way of Palm Beach County, is part of the 7th annual Intern Power to Care Day, which allows interns to experience the company’s core value of giving back to the communities it serves.
“Our company and employees care about giving back,” said FPL’s External Affairs Manager, Sophia Eccleston. “It’s one of our core values to give back to the communities we serve. We’re excited to lend a hand today to Achievement Centers for Children and Families, which creates opportunities for children and their families to thrive in a positive environment.”
She also gave credit to the United Way of Palm Beach County for providing support and resources.
Achievement Centers for Children & Families is a community-based, family focused organization which provides opportunities such as education, skill building and healthy lifestyles for under-resourced children.
Volunteers in lime green FPL T-shirts were coloring murals created by Jupiter-based artist Alice Denny, sorting toys and clothing, cleaning classrooms and buses, remodeling the after-school supply storage room and creating STEAM/STEM labs for the after-school program.
“Having these interns here working so hard means everything,” said Jessica Gregoire, Director of Community Engagement for Achievement Centers. “As a nonprofit, our focus is on the programs we provide and not so much on the facility. We’ve never had this level of beautification before. This personal touch will create a less institutional feel and a more personable, inviting, homey feeling.”
One of those interns was Delray-born and raised FAU computer science graduate student, Jamie Craig, 29.
She spent three months over the summer interning at NextEra Energy working with their Robotics Process Automation Team. She helped build a robot with cognitive capabilities to understand natural language processing which allows the robots to complete tedious, repetitive tasks, so humans don’t have to.
Her interests lie in renewable and sustainable energy and in doing something meaningful for society, she says.
“It was a great opportunity to intern at FPL/NextEra,” Craig said. “Today is one of my favorite days. It’s great to be here in Delray painting murals and doing something for my community.”
Likewise, Palm Beach Gardens resident and Colombian native Juan Ortiz, 30, has returned as an FPL intern for his third consecutive year.
An older student (his plans for joining the Marine Corps were shelved after a motorcycle accident) Ortiz hopes to graduate from FAU in December with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He was spending the day painting an Everglades-themed mural, something he said was right up his alley, as a dilletante artist.
“We’re paying it forward,” he said, “like that movie (Mimi Leder’s 2000 film, “Pay It Forward”).
He was unreserved in his regard for the experience and exposure he gained through the FPL/NextEra internship experience.
“I love the corporate culture,” says Ortiz, who was a part of their wind fleet team, in the Power Generation Division (PGD) working with wind turbines. “They are encouraging and treat you with respect, even though you are still learning.”
Ortiz had the opportunity to travel with the team to Texas where he worked on a wind turbine, climbing up an 180-foot-tower ladder in full gear.
“It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to exercise my career in a real-life situation,” Ortiz says. “I was able to collaborate with other engineers and found it both challenging and inspiring.”
Ortiz has already interviewed for a full-time job with NextEra and says he’d be thrilled to start his career with the company.
“I wish more companies would invest in young people and believe in their communities,” Ortiz said.“FPL/NextEra encourages their employees to serve the communities. It helps us as well, not only the communities. It’s a super-privilege to be a part of this Intern Power to Care Day.”