This feature is part of NCSEA’s ongoing focus on women and diversity in clean energy and the importance of creating an accessible, affordable future for all. We recently sat down with Jada Sherman, a budding figure in clean energy, to hear more about what inspires her and where she plans to head next.
Jada Sherman realized she wanted to change the world when she first learned about fracking in an environmental science class in high school. Since that moment, she has wasted no time pursuing a path to confront some of society’s most pressing energy and equity issues. From the challenge of high energy burdens disproportionately affecting low- and moderate-income communities to mitigating the negative impacts that humans have on the planet, Jada is in search of solutions-driven results. Because of this, she is following a career path in clean energy steeped in environmental justice, community development, and education.
A connection to the natural world and an understanding of the role that energy plays in the everyday lives of a community manifested early in Jada’s life. She recalls growing up with firsthand experience of living in a home with a high energy burden, citing times when her own family home would have the power cut. “It’s real and it’s happening right now. I have an emotional connection to it. It’s not just about lowering the energy bill, it's about households having better financial opportunities to healthcare and education.” Jada recognizes the impact that high energy bills have on every other aspect of a family’s life and how it’s an inhibiting factor to getting ahead. This intrinsic value pushes Jada to discover ways in which energy policy can be used to address the issues plaguing black and brown communities today.
Expanding the scope of the field
Jada aspired to study at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in 2017. Throughout her studies, Jada has been immersed in environmental and political sciences, seizing every opportunity to gain real world experience and knowledge. An early accomplishment arose while working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in 2019 as an agriculture sustainability intern. During this time, she was exposed to the lack of diversity in various environmental organizations. As Jada said: “You don’t see a lot of people who look like me so it can be hard to identify with the field.” Prompted by this realization, she helped establish an agreement with EDF and her college to actively recruit students from A&T and other HBCUs. Working with EDF also allowed Jada to contemplate her future career path, which ultimately led her away from agricultural studies and into the world of policy.
In the following two years, Jada went on to become an emerging leader with the Black Caucus Foundation in 2020 and a climate campaign outreach intern with the National Audubon Society in 2021. These roles gave her firsthand experience with effective methods of community engagement and policy advocacy. Notably, while at Audubon Society, Jada had a chance to engage their state clean energy campaign, her first true introduction into the realm of energy. From there, Jada went on to join the US Department of Energy as a Mickey Leland Energy Fellow later in 2021. In this position, she further developed her technical expertise within energy through research on best practices to cap fossil fuel wells.
Looking into the future of clean energy
Jada now works with Solar United Neighbors (SUN) as an Energy, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow, where she brings a culmination of insight gained through some of the previous experiences cited above, along with her passion to make a positive impact on frontline communities. Jada describes her role at SUN as being focused on equitable financing, energy access, and economic upliftment. Further, she outlines this time as one of the most influential experiences in her life. Being with SUN has also helped her crystallize what she hopes to do next in her professional journey.
Moving forward, Jada is striving to be an advocate of the community. She is fervent about the potential that education and partnerships can have in the role of environmental justice at this pivotal time in energy history. As she stated: “Starting at the community is the most important thing. We need to prioritize low- and moderate-income needs because they are the ones most vulnerable. A successful transition from traditional energy sources must find the space to allow these communities to grow mentally and financially.” She stresses that society can create a win-win by pursuing workforce development while forming a common understanding that transcends political affiliations or socioeconomic barriers.
Jada Sherman is a woman with the technical scientific know-how and determination necessary to forge the path for the future of clean energy. She is ready to elevate the conversation on diversity, sustainability, and energy access. As she prepares to graduate in May of 2022, Jada is ready to continue growing as an advocate for a better tomorrow.
NCSEA is eager to see the positive impact that Jada Sherman will have on the world as she strives to build an affordable, accessible clean energy future for all. To hear more inspiring stories about current and future leaders in clean energy, head over to NCSEA’s blog.