Dr. Constance Brown,
right, chair of the Sustainability and Community Development program at Northern Arizona University/Yavapai, congratulates Aaron McKinley-Whitlatch on his $750 fellowship award from Duke Energy Renewables on Feb. 11.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Aaron McKinley-Whitlatch is the first student in the Community Development and Sustainability program at the Prescott Valley campus of Northern Arizona University/Yavapai College to receive a fellowship award from Duke Energy Renewables.
In order to qualify for the $750 award, a student must carry outstanding to excellent grades in the CDS program and in the Renewable Resources class.
"Aaron carries an A across the board," said his instructor, Dr. Constance Brown, who heads up the CDS program, as she presented the check to McKinley-Whitlatch. "We recognize Aaron for the achievements and efforts you put into your coursework and into the community outside of the classroom."
McKinley-Whitlatch is in his final semester of the degree program and also will receive an Entrepreneurship certificate.
Along with the money, Duke Energy has invited the senior to visit and tour its solar power facility in Bagdad, and also receive either a half-day or full-day training in renewable energy on the Northern Arizona University campus in Flagstaff.
"Sustainability has three elements: environmental, social, and economic," McKinley-Whitlatch explained. "If any of the three elements of a sustainability project are not viable, then a given project is not truly sustainable. I am most interested in the social element of sustainability."
McKinley-Whitlatch said his other interest is providing music experiences to both ends of the population - the elderly and children. He sits on the board of directors for comMUSIKey, an organization that brings music into the quad-city community.
"We find those who are socially isolated and show them how to bring out the music in their lives," Whitlatch said. "We also connect instruments with people who like to play music."
Brown said Whitlatch lives what he learns by applying sustainability practices to life, and he confirmed this.
"I keep my carbon footprint small. I grow my own vegetables, and I live a DIY (do it yourself) lifestyle," the student and father said. "I also make great efforts to teach my children about the challenges we face and what we as individuals can do to help. I fear that my children's generation will feel the greatest impacts of the challenges we face. They will also be the people who will continue to innovate the solutions to many of those problems."
McKinley-Whitlatch also talks to them about being wary of consumerism, and the importance of local economy, local social and political action, as well as the importance of local food security and other dietary choices.
He has been too busy with full-time work and school to give much thought to how he will spend the $750 fellowship award. He is looking for more career options, but said he will continue working with comMUSIKey.
"The organization is doing great things to further develop our community, build bridges, and develop our local social capital so that we may have a more unified community," McKinley-Whitlatch said.