Many people wouldn’t know it by watching her work, but a couple months ago, Miranda Manzanares knew nothing about solar.
And now: “I feel like I can talk about electrons,” she said.
When Manzanares was 16, she lost her mom and ended up living on the streets for almost five years, but she was determined to be the first in her family to finish high school.
“So I literally roamed the train areas, like the trains. I slept there. I slept at Denny’s. I did my work, and I graduated,” she said.
Soon after, Manzanares got a job in construction, but she was the only woman and didn’t feel supported. At GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, she is among eight women out of 23 workers in a 13-week training program to install solar panels.
“They job place us. They get us job readiness workshops. They help us with resumes, mock interviews, and I’m just feeling like a better human being,” she said.
GRID recently received a $500,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase for an initiative to bring on more underserved women, especially those formerly incarcerated.
“GRID is just one of 8 winners selected nationwide from more than 200 applications,” said Corey Matthews, vice president of global philanthropy for Los Angeles JPMorgan Chase.
“This is like our big push in terms of like women — women that were impacted by the system, and women who need a second chance to enter the workforce,” said Shameka Dixon, director of workforce development at GRID GLA.
Some of that funding went to pay for Unique Thomas’ position as a Solar Instructor, a former GRID trainee herself and at the time, she says she was practically the only woman.
“I want to lead by example. I want to be the face. I want to be like, ‘Ok, if you’re feeling this way, like imposter syndrome, like you’re not supposed to be here, you’re welcome here,’” Thomas said. “A few of them have come to me and said like, you make it easier for us. You make us feel more comfortable.”
“I feel like I want to market more women to do this because women are strong. We can do it all!” Manzanares said, smiling.
Reports show green jobs also pay higher than the national average, and Manzanares says her primary goal is to own a home. Once these trainees graduate, GRID says they can start at $20-$25 an hour.
"I have a purpose to get up and go do something. I have a purpose to learn something, and it makes me feel like I’m somebody," Manzanares said.
Her own energy, contagious for a green career that is no longer out of reach.
"I think the rest of my life will be all about solar," she said.