News Column

Teens Plan to Light up El Paso

August 19, 2013
el paso
El Paso (file photo)

Three cousins are on a mission to brighten downtown El Paso and the Franklin Mountain star, while saving money and the environment.

Alex Renteria, Brandon Mina and Samuel Nava created the "Brighten El Paso" project to improve the El Paso skyline by adding environmentally-friendly LED lights to most of the buildings in the area and even figured out a way to limit the cost to tax payers.

"When there is a beautiful skyline it creates a sense of identity and pride," said Renteria, a 13-year old Lincoln Middle School student. "Albuquerque, Reno, Raleigh, and Austin are all cities about the size of El Paso and they all have beautiful skylines. El Paso's skyline isn't very bright and we want to change that while not increasing taxes."

The goal of the project is to make El Paso a better and environmentally-friendly city, and to serve as a model to other El Paso youth to get involved in their community, Renteria said.

"We are trying to come up with ideas that will make El Paso a better place to live," Renteria said. "We want to make El Paso a more environmentally-friendly city that everyone can be proud of. We also want to show that the youth can make an impact in their city."

The plan is to add LED-lights to downtown buildings along with solar panels to brighten the city, lower the cost and to help the environment.

"Our plan is to put LED-lights and solar panels because they save on energy, cut down on light pollution and in the long-term save money," said Nava, a 14-year old Cathedral High School student. "We hope the city can find the land and area to put the solar panels. Solar power is good for the environmental and will help keep the cost low."

In order to meet the cost of the project, the three cousins have already started talking to businesses

in the downtown area, the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, and the El Paso Electric Company for support and sponsorship. The group is also looking at art grants, use of tax increment reinvestment zone funds and creating incentives by the city and El Paso Electric to encourage businesses and property owners to participate.

"We hope that El Paso Electric and the city could have incentives like saving on their electric bills for building owners that participate," Nava said. "With grants and help from the city, the plan will make El Paso beautiful and save the people of El Paso money. Also, the LED lights are long lasting and will end up costing less."

The other part of "Brighten El Paso" is to make the Franklin Mountain star shine brighter while keeping the environment in mind.

"The Franklin Mountain star is a very important landmark in El Paso," said Mina, a 13-year old Brown Middle School student. "Right now it uses 459 compact fluorescent bulbs, we want to replace them with LED ones that last longer, and save money and energy. We also want to make it where the star can easily change colors for certain holidays, like red, white and blue for the Fourth of July, and pink for causes like Breast Cancer Awareness Month."

The group has started discussions with the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, who are in charge of the star, about the possibility of making the changes.

"So far everyone we have been able to talk to has given us great feedback," Mina said. "We hope to get more organizations and city officials to support our plan and get our project out to the people of El Paso. El Paso is a great city and this project can help bring pride and identity to the people of El Paso."

The three cousins have also spoken with El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and City Representative Cortney Niland about their project. Up next is a meeting with the Commissioner's Court today and the El Paso City Council on Tuesday.

"I was incredibly impressed with this group," Escobar said. "The project is exciting, very doable and will accomplish their goal of making downtown El Paso more beautiful. They will be meeting with the Commissioner's Court and the City Council and I hope there are ways they can consider to make this project possible. It is such a great idea and these young men are very informed and a great example for the youth of El Paso to get involved and make an impact in their city."

Aaron Martinez may be reached at 915-546-6249.

What: Three cousins -- Alex Renteria, Brandon Mina and Samuel Nava -- created the "Brighten El Paso" project.

Why: The young cousins want to improve the El Paso skyline by adding environmentally-friendly LED lights to Downtown building and the star on the Franklin Mountain.



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Source: Copyright El Paso Times (TX) 2013

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