Operation REACH recruiting youth affected by BP oil spill

By Bryan Sims | February 23, 2011

New Orleans-based nonprofit Operation REACH Inc. is recruiting prospective students affected by the BP oil spill to enroll in the spring session as part of its Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project. The session is receiving funding from a Department of Labor National Emergency grant through the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Jefferson Paris Workforce Investment Board.

The spring session begins March 10 and participants will engage in extensive hands-on training that includes certification by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and enrollment at Delgado Community College, which houses a lab-scale transesterification unit for students to learn about biodiesel production from used cooking oil, according to Operation REACH chief development officer Hamilton Simons-Jones.

To be eligible for the program, Simons-Jones said applicants must provide documentation indicating that they have been directly affected by the oil spill, such loss of employment or decreased work hours and wages. The spring session will be 11 weeks and consist of half days that run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

“We need to make sure we have a full class before we start it,” Simons-Jones said. “We’re looking at between 10 to 20 students.”

Operation REACH also has a partnership with Golden Leaf Energy, which distributes and blends the biodiesel produced through the program to local diesel fleets in the area. “[Golden Leaf Energy] is actually one of our employers, we have a number of employer-partners so that when we have people that graduate from the program, they have employment in areas of interest ranging from the construction aspects to the distribution component,” Simons-Jones said.

Currently, the biodiesel facility at DCC is designed to produce about 90 gallons of biodiesel per day, but Simons-Jones hopes to have it scaled up to produce approximately 500 gallons a day in the future.

“We’ve done a lot of work to really get the facility up and running,” Simons-Jones said. “We hope to scale it up in the future and perhaps, as part of this program, engage participants in scaling up the process capacity.”

Officially launched in 2009, Operation REACH’s GYBP focuses on the production and sale of biodiesel as a means of educating and developing leadership and entrepreneurship who reside in local, low-income communities. Simons-Jones said that the upcoming session will be a platform for those affected by the oil spill to partake in creating environmentally sound alternatives.

“For people here in Southeastern Louisiana, the oil spill had such a dramatic impact on so many different people’s way of life that it’s only appropriate that for people who were impacted by it to produce alternatives to it,” Simons-Jones said.


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