Catching Up With Citizen-Scholar Winner Shayna De Silva

Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) 2021 Citizen-Scholar Scholarship winner Shayna De Silva is from the home of pizza and bagels. Well, sort of.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Great River, New York which is about 50 miles east of New York City on the South Shore of Long Island. In other words: home of the pizza and bagels! Where did you complete your undergraduate degree? I completed my undergraduate degree at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh (SUNY). A public university, equivalent to your California State University (CSU) system. Plattsburgh is in the Adirondack region and close to the Canadian border [Montreal side]. My objective in choosing Plattsburgh was to be far away but with the affordability of in-state tuition.

Shayna with her dog Rukah after graduating from her Master’s program at University of Arizona. Photo provided by Shayna De Silva

What did you study at Suny Plattsburgh? How did your undergraduate degree inform the work you did in the environmental nonprofit sector? Was this the career path you planned to embark on?

Originally, I wanted to teach high school and pursued a BA in English. I never went on to teach in a classroom. I think in a general sense, education helps build skills and qualities to self-learn and create your own path forward. Higher education has also helped me become more mission oriented and seek social good on a community level. I believe such perspective is important in any business setting and often can guide major decision-making. My career path over a decade became a diversified combination of non-profit, corporate, and government work. This was certainly not what I planned at 18 but believe it can be challenging to identify where you want to be at that point in your life…

How did your graduate degree further your knowledge of the environmental nonprofit sector?

Going on to complete a master’s was not originally on my radar though felt I could create more impact by being better informed in an environmental policy and regulatory space. My passion for the environment and polar regions was also a key driver. Ironically, COVID-19 created some unforgivable industry challenges and I found myself switching jobs in my final semester of grad school. Another life lesson here is adaptability.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your professional life?

In my free time, I like to volunteer and often on environmentally focused projects. My most recent venture includes helping form the Lower Grizzly Firewise Community. Additionally, I’m a house plant enthusiast and love to share cuttings with other botany fans. Finally, I try to spend time in the mountains either snowboarding, dirt biking, or simply on foot.

Where can we find you in your career now?

You can find me at another interesting crossroads: I started working for Washoe County in an administrative capacity exactly one year ago. Working in local government allows me to serve in a public space where I can still be part of a mission driven environment. I’m pleased to gain experience in the public sector which has strong parallels to my time serving in a nonprofit space.

What has your experience been as a cooperative member? You grew up on public power lines.

My experience with Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric has been very positive. I am constantly impressed with their high level of service and ability to respond in difficult regional situations, i.e., wildfires and other extreme weather events.

Likewise grateful for their community contributions and investments in scholars. I will say growing up with PSEG was different mostly because I didn’t own the home, so it was my parent’s problem! But the regional challenges faced were arguably different and a lot less extreme. I also do not recall power restoration there being as quick as it is for me here in Portola!

Applications for the 2023 Citizen Scholar Scholarships are available online at our Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative website or by calling the PSREC Member Services Department at (530) 832-4261 or (800) 555-2207. The entry deadline is Friday, April 28.