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Strides for student success

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Step by step SAIT graduates Gursh Bal (Pre-Employment Electrician '12, Electrician ’16, OYA '19) and Kai Fahrion (Electrician ’15, OYA ‘19) are challenging themselves, their peers, and their community to build a brighter, more sustainable and informed future.

As co-CEOs of ZENO Renewables, a Calgary-based sustainable energy solutions company, Bal, Fahrion and their team are at the forefront of the transition to reduce environmental impact by integrating solutions into people’s everyday lives. As supporters of education and community builders, they recently created the ZENO Renewables Strides for Sustainability Awarda commitment that includes raising funds for the award by running marathons for the next three years.

Their approach to these challenges has always been to lead by example and encourage others through their actions.

“I’d challenge and encourage people to look at simple aspects that you’re able to change and take that first step,” says Fahrion. “And after that, ask yourself, ‘how am I able to influence and challenge individuals around me to take their first step?’”.

Fahrion and Bal are also advocates of making an impact in any way you can.

“There used to be a time where individuals were limited in what they could do in their personal time to make a difference,” explains Bal. “But nowadays, there’s so many opportunities to have an impact in one’s personal and professional life, and their community.”

Their commitment to champion change, challenge themselves and support the community, inspired Bal and Fahrion to create the ZENO Renewables Strides for Sustainability Award. The award supports students in financial need entering their first year at SAIT who are interested in integrating sustainability into their day-to-day lives.

“We saw this award as a tool to make a difference,” says Bal. “One thing we should be committed to is education and the forward momentum that a person gains from it. Even if you go down a different educational pathway, you will still learn the skills that allow you to be successful in life no matter what.”

Giving back to bring others in step

In 2016, the pair were the winners of SAIT’s Build Your Business Competition, which provided them with the funds to quit their day jobs and start ZENO Renewables. Through the ZENO Renewables Strides for Sustainability Award and marathon fundraisers, Bal and Fahrion hope to help students achieve their goals the way SAIT supported them.

“SAIT has been so pivotal in our career,” says Fahrion. “It was a no-brainer to give back and actually support education, and provide a scholarship that encourages people to pivot into sustainability.”

Reflecting on the future of their industry and the community around them, both Bal and Fahrion express inspirational excitement.

“The whole sustainability industry and all the different innovations are amazing,” shares Bal. “We are close to a time in which people will be able to enjoy the highest level of convenience and luxuries with the lowest environmental impact possible.” “We’re able to make an impact, as an organization and individually, on an issue that’s facing the whole world and actually push the needle forward,” says Fahrion.

Bal and Fahrion completed the full Banff Marathon on Sunday, Sept.12, raising more than their initial goal of $5000. All donations received went toward supporting SAIT students through the Strides for Sustainability Award.

 

2022 Update

Building on the incredible success of  their efforts last year in which they surpassed their goal of raising $5,000 for students, the team at ZENO have decided to aim for the stars and double their efforts. For their second marathon the ZENO team have increased their fundraising goal to $10,000 with the proceeds being split between SAIT and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). 

"There are two things I'm most excited about," shares Bal. "The first is that we have both hubs involved in the fundraiser: Edmonton is supporting NAIT and Calgary is supporting SAIT. The second is the number of people participating in our fundraiser."

"The biggest excitement for me is how much it has grown," says Fahrion. "It started with two people, three last year and now nine. It's nice to see both cities jump in."

The decision to support both schools was based on Bal and Fahrion's goal of helping to build a better society through education and also the success of last year's event.

"A big part that made it so successful last year was not just making it about us, but getting the team involved and reaching out to our network of people wanting to help with this educational fund," says Fahrion. "A lot of individuals really support SAIT here in Calgary and NAIT in Edmonton as well. A big part of the success was we were doing something that was for our local community."

"The way that education is provided in places like SAIT and NAIT gives you that education with the intention of enhancing yourself as an individual and thus further enhancing the society that you are part of," Bal explains. "So, the reason I believe it was so successful was that people believed in that specific mechanism of making the world a better place through education."

The second annual Strides for Sustainability fundraiser marathon occurs on Sunday, Aug. 21 in Edmonton. To learn more and donate, visit Strides for Sustainability.   

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