Like many tourists each year, Isai Rea, 20, and his friends had the opportunity to visit Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon recently with its sulfur-rich waters heated at about 99 degrees.
But unlike his friends who wondered about the spa’s uniqueness, Rea can explain in detail how the lagoon is heated by a magma chamber below from a nearby volcano and that 90 percent of Iceland is powered by geothermal renewable energy.
Rea is a junior at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in environmental science and environmental economics. In August, he started a study abroad program in Scotland and when he can, he explores different parts of Europe, including Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Morocco and Budapest.
"The Edison Scholars award was the cherry on top, the best scholarship I received."
2015 Edison Scholar
He credits a $40,000 Edison Scholars award from Edison International in 2015 for allowing him to pursue his academic dreams, both in the U.S. and abroad.
“This has been a completely amazing experience, something I have dreamed of doing my whole life. I have had these real-world experiences where I can be the teacher and tour guide,” said Rea, who is currently taking courses at the University of Glasgow.
“The Edison Scholars award was the cherry on top, the best scholarship I received,” he added, noting that it influenced his decision to choose UC Berkeley over Harvard where he had been offered a full ride. “And I’m having the time of my life.”
Edison International has awarded more than $7.5 million in Edison Scholars scholarships to 580 students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) in college since 2006. The Edison Scholars Program is funded entirely by shareholder dollars. Students living in Southern California Edison’s service territory with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who demonstrate financial need can apply for the $40,000 scholarships until the deadline of Dec. 1.
Thirty new students will be selected and announced in March.
“Students with big dreams who need help paying for their college education in STEM should apply for the Edison Scholars Program,” said Lisa Woon, SCE principal manager of Corporate Philanthropy. “And as a next-generation energy company, we're looking for the leaders of tomorrow to one day join the Edison team."
Rea’s experience studying aboard has changed his future career plans. In high school, he dreamed of becoming a doctor, but he now wants to work for the U.N. or the Environmental Protection Agency working on energy transition with a focus on renewable energy.
“It’s been an interesting journey for me,” said Rea. “We need energy security in our future and we have to do it now. Renewable energy is versatile and is a great alternative to fossil fuels.”
In two months, he will return to UC Berkeley where he will be closer to his parents who live in Los Angeles. As the only child of immigrant Mexican parents, he jokes: “My parents are not fond of me being 6,000 miles away.”
Rea encourages high school seniors to take a chance and apply for a 2018 Edison Scholars award.
“They should definitely apply,” he said. “Just go for it.”