CLIMB ON

Reaching Goals Beyond the Classroom

Photo of Elliott D
51 45

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

facebook.com/susfamfound @susfamfound- instagram

Date Started

My idea is something I want to incorporate into a pre-existing foundation. The Foundation for Sustainable Families is about 2 1/2 years old. My idea is something I've been thinking over for about 6 months.

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

At the Foundation for Sustainable Families, we strive to educate, support, strengthen and sustain families, children, and communities. Our farm has harbored hundreds of different types of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that we use to feed families and educate students about where their food comes from, how food is created, and how it is grown. The food model we are utilizing grew and donated over 3,000 pounds of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to local shelters. Our property holds history with one of the only original sugar cane mills in Florida as well as bee preservation and honey extraction. This past summer we hosted a feeding site for youth to get free lunches as part of 'NoKidHungry' efforts. With schools coming for field trips, and parents bringing young volunteers, we hope that play equipment will allow our community's youth to feel comfortable in our environment.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Given our central location within the city, we are surrounded by families with high poverty rates. The foundation already specifically works with kids at high risk like those who have been victims of both sexual or physical abuse, divorce, and neglect. Many of these children in turn experience developmental delays. Without addressing these delays, the kids won't thrive. I want to give kids the same opportunity as anyone to become their best self.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I would love a play area where these kids can feel emotionally safe in a fun environment for healing and exploration. It would also provide all our visitors with the opportunity to work on their gross motor skills and physical health. Exercise in nature would contribute to their over all well being, while complementing the core muscles used in urban farming and climbing. Did you know strong shoulders can lead to better hand writing? Climbing on play equipment will help these kids in the classroom with handwriting, social skills, and more. Many children in the area walk or ride their bike home from school or the library and pass by our farm. We do not have ANY public play equipment within a mile of our site. Our property would allow a space for kids to continue their interests outside a school or quiet environment. Inclusive play is also very rare at schools, especially Florida. I'd like to incorporate inclusive play into the playground because it would allow kids who have physical and mental disabilities to have fun, feel included with their friends, and work on those same core areas of their bodies that are mirrored in class room work.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Building the playground itself will be a great way to bring the community together. We have had a range of volunteers from firefighters, scouts, office groups, and more come and help out. When people see leaders and friends helping out the community, it inspires others to do so too. It also gives the opportunity for anyone who needs service hours to get them! In our state, we have what is called Bright Futures. Bright futures provides scholarships for college students based on high school merit. There are three different levels of scholarships that the state will give graduating seniors who have the right GPA and 100 service hours! Once the playground is built, high school students can continue to receive hours by maintaing and cleaning equipment- this will increase their chance at a college degree. The equipment can then be played on to help kids of all ages, races, and abilities.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Almost all playgrounds being funded around the nation are specifically for schools. I think it is super important to have a safe, public space where kids can explore and play beyond school too. It's also rare for any playground to have inclusive play which allows kids of all abilities to interact and grow while having fun. It's not uncommon that our nonprofit sees kids with both mental and physical delays because of the types of families we work with. I think it would be great that we would be able to show these kids that they are meant to be here and have the same capabilities as anyone.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have so many different types of families and schools who come to our farm property. It is important to me that kids are exposed to these difference because it encompasses all the different people around the world. Given our Florida location, we are exposed to a more global diverse community including children born from Haiti, Cuba, and Mexico. According to the Census Bureau, Florida has more than 12 times the national average of Cuba born residents. With a combined total of 1.5+ million residents from these three countries, we are just scratching the surface of the diverse families and communities in our area. The foundation itself has helped donate over 3,000 pounds of produce to help those in shelters, given free haircuts and uniforms to school kids, helped kids with volunteerism, education, etc, so it's easy to say that we have helped thousands in our area.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The main thing that brings this project to the next level is the inclusive play. What a lot of people don't realize is that kids gain so many different social skills while being on a playground with others. ALL kids need to have the opportunity to gain those unique social skills and a inclusive play will allow that to happen. It will also allow kids to learn about tolerance, diversity and acceptance which, unfortunately, is often not taught in the classroom. Right now at the farm we are finishing up building our pavilion. This will be an area that will be great for events and funding. With more going on our property, it will allow even more families in our community to enjoy play & learn about everything we do/ teach their kids!

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Because I'd like to incorporate this playground into the foundation I already volunteer with, we already have a website, team members, etc. I'd love to sit down and discuss with someone who sells the playground equipment about the their different products in order to insure we are getting a playground that covers all the right motor skills in inclusive play! I've even seen playgrounds that are made from the plastics of milk jugs- it's all recycled! It would be cool to have some sort of signage near the playground that thanks everyone that was part of the T-Mobile Changemakers Challenge to recognize that big companies help smaller communities grow. I'd want it to be weather proof and such so that way it lasts as long as the play ground.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

In highschool I had a public speaking class and did really well! I think it would be fun to go to local high school/middle schools and talk about how I've made a change in the community. A lot of my friends were surprised about how much I have done and didn't realize that even someone like me , just 19 years old, can help so many people. I'd also speak well to the LGBT community because I am female to male transgender. I think a lot of LGBT youth feel powerless and maybe if they see the changes I've made, they will be inspired to create change too! Growing up all the guest speakers we had come to the school were over 30 years old. It's hard to visualize yourself creating changes like them when they are twice and sometimes three times your age. I could become a relatable figure for the youth in our community. Being young would help me get the attention and support from the youth in the community because they feel more comfortable with someone they can relate to.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Ashley Rhodes-Courter. She is the founder of The Foundation for Sustainable Families and she has been such an inspiration and a true hero in my eyes by believing in me and supporting my ideas to help incorporate more of the community and create more of an impact! It's not often that the founder of a company is willing to put a teenager in charge of things and it warms my heart to know that she trusts me and knows that I can create a difference :).

Evaluation results

28 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 78.6%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 17.9%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 67.9%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 28.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 60.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 32.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 7.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 16.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 4.2%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 89.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 7.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

51 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Patrice
Team

Congrats on making it to top 100, Elliott! I knew you could do it! I'm so excited for you and I'm anxious to see your project announced with the top 25.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you Patrice!

Photo of David
Team

I'm thrilled to see that your project has moved forward. After seeing your idea, I've looked into ways to get a playground in my area for kids like my brother. I'm proud of you. Godspeed

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you David! I'm so excited and I hope that I can move on to top 25 to help people like your brother!

Photo of Ariyan Miller
Team

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you! I love your idea of approaching a healthier mindset amongst young girls. I wish you the best moving forward Ariyan Miller 

Photo of Joshua Chavez
Team

I think your push for change is so necessary! Kids need a place to play and be kids!! I think we share that common ground with our ideas as we both wish to create havens for youth to be themselves!! My idea focuses on centers for LGBT youth and also works to fight against aids and trans workplace discrimination! You should check it out, maybe we could work together!

Photo of Katie Ferguson
Team

I absolutely love this concept! And I think it’s fantastic that you’ve done all this prior work to back up your idea. You’ve thought out every single aspect and it really shows how much you care not only about your project but about your community. Your inclusive playground sounds like it would be a wonderful addition to the farm! And the farm itself also sounds great! :)

Photo of Lias HS
Team

The work you are doing, and hope to do, is outstanding, Elliott. The farm, this playground idea, they are fantastic and show your dedication to your community. I can tell that you have really researched and committed yourself to your work and in my eyes you truly embody being a "changemaker".

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you so much Lias HS ! Your words are so warming and I'm thankful for your encouragement

Photo of Naomi Leah
Team

I love the concept. I can't wait to test it out and have a day full of fun with my niece!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

I'd love to see J play here. She would have so much fun with our chickens <3

Photo of Ty&amp;#039;Dre Lee
Team

I really like the ideas you have. Especially the inclusive play! Your farm sounds really cool.Your video and your words really show how dedicated and enthusiastic you are. I really do look forward to partnering with you in the near future.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

I'm glad you enjoyed my video, thanks for your support

Photo of Carson McBain
Team

Elliott, from your words and your video I can truly feel how enthusiastic and dedicated you are to helping these kids in your community. You have a lot of great ideas and the Foundation for Sustainable Families and neighboring community will definitely benefit from them! I think what could make this proposal even stronger is zooming in on what is the problem/social issue you are solving, and then explaining exactly how the playground will do that. It's helpful to talk about the Foundation for Sustainable Families and the work they do, but make sure that the focus is on your project and what it will achieve. As you seek funding for this project, I would emphasize why the community needs this playground and why it's strategic to have it on the farm as opposed to somewhere else. Keep up the amazing work!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Carson, this comment means a lot to me. I feel as though you truly see my love for my community and for this project. I appreciate your suggestion and I'm grateful for your support

Photo of Tyler Vogel
Team

Very great community-centered idea. Best of luck to you Elliott!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

thanks, Tyler :)

Photo of Danielle Snyder Potter
Team

Your video and your words really show how dedicated and enthusiastic you are in helping kids in your community. I definitely believe that the Foundation for Sustainabke Families and other communities will benefit. The only thing I would adjust would be what kind of issue you’re trying to solve and how the playground would do that. It’s a really good idea but the proposal needs adjusting in a few areas.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you for this suggestion. I can absolutely look over this and form a stronger statement explaining the issue at hand. And also thank you for the support, Danielle!

Photo of plainly
Team

I'm so excited for the prospect of this. I'm especially confident about a leader of the trans community using his experiences to shape a better environment for our younger community. Really proud and on board with this, Elliott!!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you for your support :)

Photo of Madison Jane
Team

A safe space for kids to interact and play is super important for development. I think this project would be amazing for our community!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

thank you so much for your support, Madison. I've seen inclusive play elements that incorporate music to help the developmental skills of those who have a love for music. I'm sure this would have been something you'd had loved as a kid.

Photo of Linds
Team

I've never seen a playground that's accessible to the handicapped. It's so cool that you want to make that happen! Maybe yours will inspire others to have one too. O love this idea and I love that you want to add it to your farm space so kids can do both! Learn and play

Photo of Elliott D
Team

I hope that our playground will inspire others as well. My hope is for children all over the world to have a safe and accepting public space to be themselves.

Photo of Sravya Alla
Team

I am so glad that you are supporting children, especially supporting their growth beyond their time at school. In particular, I like the idea of all students being able to use the playground and to feel safe and accepted. I am not too aware of the nature of parks and playgrounds in Florida, I saw that overall, that parks are underused and are also underfunded. Specifically, the RAND Corporation found that 50% of parks have lost funding in the past few years. There may be room for collaboration-- so that many public playgrounds can become safe spaces. I think your idea could be implemented nationwide.
https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2016/05/neighborhood-parks-national-study-rand/483150/

Photo of Elliott D
Team

what a great article, thank you for sharing. Specifically, I was unaware that girls specifically are being found less active in play areas. I feel as though physical activity and socializing in a playground atmosphere are stepping stones to working and creating with peers in a school or work place. I'm also glad that you agree that safety and acceptance are important to the children at play because it truly is something that will help prevent things like bullying, hate, and ignorance in our future generations.

Photo of Beverly Menahem
Team

Elliot’s concept and commitment is very reassuring to many aspects of children’s development socially and intellectually. And I believe the same effect among adults including parents and educators. One good deed leads to another. I believe this project will help and teach many to appreciate their surroundings, understand hard work and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Wish we had this when we were kids. Elliot is on the right path , journey to a very rewarding future. Thank you Elliot and good luck and wish you much success!!! Beverly Menahem

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you so much for the support Beverly. I love how you, too believe that this will have a positive effect on not only the kids, but their parents and educators! It is my hope that it spreads to as many as possible to spark change in other areas of our community, or even another community!

Photo of Mattie W
Team

It sounds like you’re really working toward something that’s going to help out the farm and the community at large. I’m excited to hear how this turns out— with someone as hard-working and considerate as Elliott leading the charge, good things must be in store!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

wow! what kind things to say. :) Thank you for your support, Mattie.

Photo of Haley
Team

I really like the ideas you have. Especially the inclusive play! Your farm sounds really cool. I have a question though. Are you trying to get like a big fancy playground or the backyard type thing that you have as the first photo? I feel like the big fancy types might be really really exspensive.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Thank you! The farm IS very cool and I'm excited for more and more kids to see it, learn from it, and help develop new parts of it! To answer your question- Any playground will do. I have done some research, and yes, the playgrounds you see at a school or normal park can be exspensive. I have found that the playgrounds you can buy at places like Home Depot (the first photo in the slideshow) can include lots of different elements and still be fairly inexpensive. What I like about playgrounds, though, is how customizable they can be! You can bring together elements from all different types of playgrounds whether its slides, climbing equipment, education play stations and boards, and more! I hope that answers your question :)

Photo of Haley
Team

I didn't realize you could do that! I guess that makes sense though. What do you mean by education boards and play stations. Like a white board? I don't feel like that is good for outside....

Photo of Elliott D
Team

So actually, education boards and stations are the areas in playgrounds that you can reach from the ground. These are more or less walls or barriers that include alternative types of play and learning. I feel like I see the ones with Tick-Tac-Toe very often- where you spin the pieces to make your connection. But there are so many more that that! They have customizable panels where kids can learn about weather, practice arithmetic, learn shapes, do mazes, play pretend and so much more! I like these areas specifically because they can be accessed by anyone! Tall, short, in a stroller, in a wheelchair, anyone can reach these and play.

Photo of Patrice
Team

At my school we never have any good people come and talk. If you were to get this playground and then go and talk to schools, I think you could really inspire some people! Based on the youtube video you attached, I think you're super passionate about what you are doing and thats so good. Especially being a kid! You said you were part of the LGBTQ community too which is cool because in my LGBTQ club at school we try to find people to come talk to us who help make change in our city while being LGBTQ. If I lived in your state,I would totally want you to come speak to our school!!!

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Aww that is so sweet of you to say! Its so great to hear your school has a place where LGBT kids can feel safe and learn!

Photo of Yesenia Santiago Irizarry
Team

I think this is a brilliant idea! Elliott has clearly put a lot of thought and dedication to this project in order to help the Pinellas community in becoming more inclusive, and it definitely is exemplified in his work! Developing both physically and socially is so important for kids and I’m ecstatic to see that ALL kids are being thought of in the development of playgrounds and programs such as this one.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

I'm so glad to hear you agree. Thank you for your support, Yesenia

Photo of Arielle Nelson-Folkersen
Team

This is an amazing idea that you don’t see too often that needs to be made aware of! Elliott has been working so hard to help different communities in so many ways, and this one really speaks for those who have trouble speaking for themselves- kids. Elliott has made some excellent points that we should all be making, by also thinking of how we can contribute and help those in need! He has been talking about this project for awhile now, and I’m so happy to see it take off and move in the right direction for all the right reasons.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

thank you for your support Arielle Nelson-Folkersen !

Photo of Adam Nicholson
Team

This is awesome! I volunteered at an urban farm here in Denver last year. Schools have field trips go to the farm and learn about animals, aquaponics, farming, and the kids get to do some work on the farm feeding animals and shoveling hay. I thought you might like to check them out.
http://theurbanfarm.org/

Keep up the good work Elliott D 
-Adam

Photo of Elliott D
Team

Adam, Thank you so much for sharing this with me! Your farm seems to have A LOT of land to utilize for a variety of experiences and growth. It seems to really create a positive impact on surrounding communities. :)

Photo of Raffi Darrow
Team

I wasn’t sure at first how a play area made sense at a farm but you did a great job of including details to explain that. Playgrounds are a wonderful place for growth and development. And if you already have school groups coming through it’s an easy activity to add to their experience and make the day memorable. Good luck!

Photo of Olivia Hardinnieri
Team

This is a great idea! Having an inclusive place where kids can play is very important in todays day and age.

Photo of Shannon Wheeler
Team

❤️❤️❤️

Photo of David
Team

My younger brother is autistic and goes to school with kids with all different special needs. They're in a regular public school tho and and their playground doesn't really fit the needs for his friends. He can climb on stuff better than the other kids (like the ones in wheel chairs and stuff) but he says its not fair that they cant play. He also says he wants to build a slide for wheel chairs but that might be harder then the inclusive play you were talking about.

Photo of Elliott D
Team

David Maybe you can find a way to incorporate inclusive play into your community too! Do have any local public parks with inclusive play? A park by my house has one swing for inclusive play but it is on the other side of the park than all the other swings, which I found a little odd. It's also 9 miles from our farm which is not really walking distance in sunny, humid Florida.

Photo of David
Team

Not really. None of the parks near us have anything like that. Not even swings. Something they teach my brothers class is how important it is to go outside instead of being online and stuff. Its ironic because when they do go outside they have nothing really to play with. Sometimes the teachers bring out the kids in wheel chairs and they just sit and watch everyone else. I saw the photos you posted with the chickens. My brother would love that! He is really into animals and animals facts. But it may be more difficult convincing his school to have chickens then play equipment for the special needs kids. XD

Photo of Elliott D
Team

If incorporating play equipment for your brother and his friends is something that you're really passionate about, maybe you can look into doing it as part of a school project. I don't know if you're in boy scouts or any clubs, but adding inclusive play to your brother's school might be a great project for you and your group/club to fundraise and build! Until then, maybe you can fund to bring small things like balls to play catch with for those who can't climb. You may be able to write to your city and talk about the importance of inclusive play too! Sometimes even one voice can make a difference for the entire community. You could encourage your brother's friends and their families to speak out about it too.