• PPS Senior Program Manager of Energy & Sustainability Invited to White House Summit

    When Aaron Presberg first got the email from the White House, he thought it was some sort of prank. 

    Then he shared the message with a few colleagues who assured him that it was no joke, and the exciting reality that he had been invited to Washington, D.C. to present at the White House’s first-ever Summit for Sustainable and Healthy K–12 School Buildings and Grounds started to sink in.

    “It’s hard to put into words,” said Presberg, who is in his eighth year as PPS’s Senior Program Manager of Energy and Sustainability. “It was surreal, to think that I’d be able to present my work alongside peers I’ve worked with for years and to do it at the White House of all places. It was really cool.”

    The summit grew out of the Biden administration’s stated commitment to equitable access to energy-efficient, climate-resilient, and healthy school facilities. It was jointly hosted by The U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The event itself began with Deputy Secretary of Energy David M. Turk recognizing the Efficient and Healthy Schools program awardees for setting “examples for energy-efficient schools that facilitate effective learning and keep students and teachers healthy.” 

    PPS was particularly honored for being a “Solutions Strategist” and taking a pioneering approach to achieving their goal of net zero emissions by 2040. 

    At the summit, a series of keynote speakers took the stage, and those speeches were followed by several panel discussions. Presberg was asked to present on PPS’s efforts to modernize its buildings to be more climate resilient. He also spoke about the district’s partnership with Multnomah County to use those buildings as cooling shelters and healthy spaces in the event of extreme heat and wildfires.

    For Presberg, it only makes sense that school districts like PPS would take the lead in addressing climate change, given the fact that schools serve young people and young people are on the frontlines of the battle against climate change.

    “Students are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts, and they’re looking toward the future, knowing that if we don’t act, things will only get worse,” he said. “Schools have a unique responsibility to try everything they can to address these issues, but we also face unique challenges in addressing them, given that, in my opinion, we’re underfunded, especially in facilities, maintenance, and operations.”

    Presberg saw the summit as both an opportunity to learn from his peers and a useful reminder of the crucial nature of sustainability efforts at the district level.

    “It was really special to share this moment with my counterparts from other districts and to get in the weeds with them on climate initiatives,” he said. “Events like this make you step back and really think about how important the work is that we’re doing and why we’re doing it in the first place.”