Reaching Goals Beyond the Classroom

Photo of Elliott D
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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): @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%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Patrice

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

Thank you Patrice!

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