The first time Allie Saunders visited James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, she was overwhelmed by just how hot it was inside.

“I wasn’t even doing classwork,” Saunders said. “And I felt like my brain was melting.”

Temperatures at Campbell, which is one of 242 public schools in Hawaii that lack central  air conditioning, can often reach the 90s during hot months.

No one should have to study in those conditions, said Saunders, who attends a well-air conditioned private school. That’s why she and four fellow high school students are launching Fahrenheit73, a new fundraising campaign aimed at installing air conditioning in at least one classroom at Campbell and raising awareness about the issue.

Saunders said the students — who are all  fellows at the Center for Tomorrow’s leaders and attend schools with air conditioning — were inspired to launch the project after reading Civil Beat’s coverage of the issue last year.

Campbell High students - "We Need AC"

Campbell High students rally for air conditioning in September 2013.

Alia Wong/Civil Beat

“We thought that since it’s our generation and our age group, that it would be good if we addressed it ourselves,” said Saunders, who serves as the group’s spokesperson.

The students are holding an Earth Day launch party for the project on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Kakaako Agora. Tickets are free and can be reserved here. Donations can be made online through May 16.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fundraising website showed $2,270 in promised donations, but the students have closer to $10,000 in total pledges, said Tiffany Quezada, the group’s mentor at the Center for for Tomorrow’s Leaders. They hope to raise $19,000 to pay for two solar-hybrid air conditioning units for Campbell.

A lack of sufficient electrical infrastructure is one of the challenges for installing air conditioning at older schools, Quezada said. The group has partnered with GreenPath Technologies and Hawaii 3R’s on the project.

The Department of Education suggested the students reach out to James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Saunders said.

Students at Campbell rallied at the state Capitol in 2013 in an effort to get air conditioning for their school. Campbell is No. 3 on the Department of Education’s air conditioning priority list.

It would cost an estimated $1.7 billion to install air conditioning in all of Hawaii’s public schools. In addition to targeting priority schools, the DOE is working on various lower-cost heat abatement initiatives, including installing ceiling fans or solar-powered ventilators in some schools.

Even though the project is focused on one classroom at Campbell, Saunders and her fellow students are hoping to create a platform for other students to seize on and replicate at other schools.

“Our main goal for this project is for it to be a platform for other students to use,” Saunders said.

More information on the student’s campaign can be found here.

About the Author