Returning High School Graduate Brings Back Solar Power and Sunshine
April 30, 2013
When Dave Royle was a student at central New Jersey’s Woodbridge (N.J.) High School in the late-1980s, he was well known for his smile.
“What stands out still is that he really enjoyed people and what he was doing,” says Woodbridge High Principal Lee Warren, who was vice principal when Royle was a student. “He was like sunshine.”
It’s appropriate then that almost 25 years after graduating, the New Brunswick, N.J., Local 456 member returned to Woodbridge High on a crew that installed about 2,000 solar panels on the school’s roof. Royle worked on eight solar roof projects at New Jersey schools. Woodbridge was the last.
“I was ecstatic to go back. Ecstatic,” says Royle. “That school had gotten me involved in using my hands and becoming an electrician and now 25 years later I am installing the panels to power it.”
As a senior in 1989, Royle participated in a program that allowed students to split the day between school and a blue-collar job. Royle worked at a service station, assisting the mechanics and learning how to repair cars.
“I liked making money,” Royle said. “I knew I wasn’t going to college and I like working with my hands.”
After graduation, Royle followed the advice he got from his union-carpenter father to become an electrician “since they always have work.”
For nearly a decade he was a member of Perth Amboy Local 358 until it merged with Local 456 in 2000. In 2004, Royle decided to take a chance and open a massage therapy business, but, just in case, he kept paying his dues.
When the economy started to cloud over in 2007, Royle closed up shop, picked up his tools again and hasn’t stopped working since.
“It’s perfect,” Royle says. “There is nothing better than having the sun on your face, having a great time working with co-workers and doing a good job.”
Last fall he was appointed shop steward by local 456 to represent IBEW members on Lighton Industries Solar projects.
Warren says he just happened to run into Royle as he was walking down the hallway with the installation crew including fellow Local 456 members Chris Jones, Andrew Lieberman, Jahred Gallagher, Jim O'Neill and Paul Reybok.
“I hadn’t seen him in decades, and the first thing I saw was the smile. He still had that,” Warren said. “He looked like he was really enjoying what he was doing and that’s what it’s all about.”