Skip to main content

After successfully completing the first Green Building Internship cohort in the spring of 2020, EcoRise dove right into leading the second cohort of Green Building Interns and their mentors through the summer of 2020. The summer internship was designed to build on the school year program and to offer an exciting, paid opportunity to learn about green career pathways for high school students who have traditionally been underrepresented in the green building, construction, and architecture industries.

Eight interns from Austin Independent School District (ISD) and Del Valle ISD worked virtually with EcoRise mentors Alexis Forte, Brittany Jayroe, and Gamal Sherif on social and civic engagement, learning about avenues to success, and connecting their passions to their work. In addition to developing workplace skills, the interns worked with a green building professional as a mentor to gain hands-on skills and career experience in urban planning, architecture, energy conservation, urban forestry, and communications. The program culminated with each intern presenting passion projects to a national audience. Learn more about each intern and their mentor below!


Abraham is a senior at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin ISD this school year. This summer he worked with Vivek Shandas from CAPA Strategies and Phoebe Romero from the City of Austin to map heat islands in Austin, Texas. Abraham explored why some places are hotter than others, determined the effects heat islands have on communities, and proposed solutions for improvement. For his passion project, Abraham took what he was learning about heat-mapping and presented solutions that could help cool Austin, Texas. He taught us that the color of a roof can have a big impact on the heat within a building. He also explained that rooftop gardens and tree cover can have a cooling effect on both buildings and neighborhoods. His favorite part of the internship was learning about East Austin’s history while he was working on heat mapping.

Meet the Mentors

Vivek Shandas, CAPA Strategies
Vivek is a climate and urban sustainability researcher affiliated with Portland State University. He is also the founder of CAPA Strategies, an organization that uses technology and data to help communities prepare for climate change.

Phoebe Romero, City of Austin
Phoebe is the Environmental Program Coordinator for the City of Austin where she focuses on air quality and climate change planning with the City of Austin Office of Sustainability. She is directly supporting the creation of an equitable climate action plan that improves residents’ quality of life while reducing environmental impact.


Allyson is a senior at McCallum High School in Austin ISD this school year. This summer she worked with Sita Lakshminarayan from BLGY Architecture analyzing the green building aspects of the new Blazier Intermediate School. Allyson is passionate about helping others and was inspired to research environmental racism after Green Professional Vivek Shandas virtually presented to the group of interns in June. For her passion project, Allyson worked with fellow intern Lesly to study environmental justice and water quality in Stony Point, a neighborhood 30 miles north of Austin, Texas. In order to confront issues with contaminated drinking water, Allyson and her partner recommended a separate sewer system so that surface water run-off and building wastewater do not mix. This would result in lower energy costs for treating wastewater by the city, and decrease incidence of watershed contamination.


David is a junior at Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin ISD. This summer he also worked with Sita Lakshminarayan from BLGY Architecture to identify the ways the new Blazier Intermediate School building was designed to incorporate sustainability, with a focus on acoustics. With a passion for music and architecture, David enjoyed learning how building designs can affect occupant health and affect acoustics within and outside of a building. For his passion project, David worked with fellow intern Kevin to recommend strategies for improved urban planning that creates affordable and acoustically comfortable housing. David recommended the use of building materials that reduce noise transmission in high-density housing and policy to ensure that vehicle and airline traffic be directed away from homes.

Meet the Mentor

Sita Lakshminarayan, BLGY Architecture
Sita mentored Allyson and David this summer. She is the Vice President of BLGY Architecture which is a firm known for designing and building green school buildings. BLGY has supported EcoRise for the past 5 years. In the 2019–2020 school year, Sita and her firm hosted six Green Building Interns who helped the new Blazier Intermediate School Building in Austin ISD earn a LEED Innovation credit.


Jesus is a senior at McCallum High School in Austin ISD. This summer, he worked with Ana Echeverria, the Austin ISD Energy Conservation Specialist, on the Get Off the Grid project where they determined energy conservation best practices to recommend to Austin ISD schools through research and interviews. Jesus is passionate about creative solutions in green building and he applied this in his passion project where he researched how to ensure families with limited income can benefit from sustainability in their neighborhoods. He recommended implementing sustainable designs in low-income housing, and public policy to make sure low-income people can afford to stay in Austin while having access to gardens and outdoor spaces, improved air quality, and the installation of living walls.

Meet the Mentor

Ana Echeverria, Austin ISD
Ana is an electrical engineer with a passion for sustainability and automation. When she worked with Jesus this summer, she wanted to make sure that he understood the basic principles of energy conservation, the importance of human behavior within a building, and the value of knowing how to influence different audiences, whether CFOs from a business, engineering colleagues, or students within a school.


Kevin is a junior at Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin ISD. This summer he worked with Matthew Mears, a forester for Austin ISD. Together, they created a survey to determine the public opinion on the urban forests in Austin ISD which will inform how the green spaces can be improved or changed in the future. For Kevin’s passion project, he worked with his fellow intern, David, to research green building strategies to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Kevin presented the costs of building dense housing in urban areas such as noise and physical congestion, and the benefits which include reduced housing costs, being close to municipal and economic services, and closer ties to community.

Meet the Mentor

Matthew Mears, Austin ISD
Matthew is a forester who works with Austin ISD. His work emphasizes public engagement with urban forests, with a focus on planting, irrigation, and community. When students and their communities invest in trees, the overall impact is to reduce heat, conserve water, and create wildlife habitat.


Lauren is a junior at Del Valle High School in Del Valle ISD. Over the summer, she worked with Laura Fuller from EcoRise to learn more about communications and tell the stories of the Summer Green Building Interns, including interviewing and writing profiles of each intern that helped inform this blog! She enjoyed learning new things from her fellow interns and the EcoRise staff, gaining communication skills, and business experience. Lauren’s passion project focused on recycling greywater. She described how she could capture laundry or sink water to use on her yard or gardens, thereby reducing overall demand for water.

Meet the Mentor

Laura Fuller, EcoRise
Laura is the Communications & Design Manager for EcoRise and has always been enthusiastic about mentoring and sharing her experience with youth. Her unique role at EcoRise positions her to share knowledge about many things from green building and sustainability to communication and digital illustration and design.


Lesly is a freshman at Abilene Christian University, studying petroleum engineering this fall. She is an alumni of Austin ISD. Lesly is passionate about empowering youth and connecting them to successful futures. Over the summer, she was excited to give back to Austin ISD students by working with Rhonda Barton, a teacher at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin ISD. Together they worked on projects that will help further the campus’ Green Flag status, including building chicken coops, bee caves, and a wellness walkway. For her passion project, Lesly worked with fellow intern, Allyson, to study environmental justice and water quality in Stony Point, a neighborhood 30 miles north of Austin, Texas. In order to improve water quality and ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water, they recommend a separated sewer system so that surface run-off and building wastewater do not mix. This would result in lower energy costs for treating wastewater by the city, and decrease incidence of watershed contamination.

Meet the Mentor

Rhonda Barton, Austin ISD
Rhonda is a high school biology teacher at Eastside Memorial High School in Austin ISD. The school originally gained Green Flag status in 2016 and Rhonda has been one of the dedicated educators getting students involved in keeping the campus green and sustainable since that time.


Sophia is a freshman at The University of Texas at San Antonio, studying construction science and management this fall. She is an alumni of Austin ISD. Sophia is passionate about building resilient communities through networking and connection. This summer, Sophia worked with Gamal Sherif from EcoRise to meet and coordinate green building professionals for a guest speaker series for the Green Building Interns where speakers discussed their passion, profession, and pathway with the interns. For her passion project, Sophia addressed the need for equitable regenerative design so that people who are economically vulnerable are not forced out of their homes due to increased property values when the quality of housing improves in their neighborhood. Sophia recommended community land trusts that promote long-term ownership. She also wants to see public policy that encourages economically vulnerable community members to receive benefits for reducing energy and water use and growing their own food.

Meet the Mentor

Gamal Sherif, EcoRise
Gamal is the Green Building Manager at EcoRise. He has worked in education for more than 25 years and is passionate about healthy, climate resilient communities. He is a LEED Green Associate that works with educators, students, and community partners to make green schools a more wide-spread reality.

Over the summer the Green Building Interns gained real-world work experience, professional skills and connections, and insight into the many pathways to achieving a green career. EcoRise could not have hosted this program without the support of our program sponsors: Austin ISD, the City of Austin, Glimmer Austin, and the Texas Education Agency. We would also like to thank all the mentors who participated in the program from Austin ISD, BLGY Architecture, CAPA Strategies, and the City of Austin. Together, we are empowering the next generation to create a more green, healthy, and sustainable world!

If you’re interested in hearing from the interns and mentors, join us at Greenbuild on Tuesday, November 10th for our session “Partnerships for Equity in Green Building Careers.” Learn more about the Greenbuild conference here. Or to learn more about EcoRise’s Green Building Academy, click here.

The most valuable thing I got out of the Green Building Internship is a chance to work with industry professionals, and discover my passions. I have a more firm idea of what I want to do later on in my life after this internship.

Green Building Intern DavidStephen F. Austin High School | Austin, TX | Summer 2020

It was really fun and enlightening working with EcoRise, and the mentors. I learned a lot, and discovered a whole new side of my passion that I had never thought of previously.

Green Building Intern SophiaAkins High School | Austin, Tx | Summer 2020