Now Estella Pyfrom, a retired school teacher, has been selected as a CNN Hero for 2013 in recognition of her innovative mobile computer education program known as “Estella’s Brilliant Bus.”
The customized vehicle equipped with 17 computers was built from scratch with specifications that Pyfrom provided in order to help educate under-served students.
In the Glades communities and other cities around the county, youth can have access to the computers and other services in preparation for a competitive global economy.
Pryfrom is the third CNN Hero chosen from the South Florida community since 2009.
U.S. Army veteran Roy Foster of West Palm Beach and Andrea Ivory of Miami made the list in 2009.
The selection makes Pryfrom a top 10 finalist for the CNN Hero of the Year award which the public will help determine. Anyone interested in voting for her should visit the CNN Heroes 2013 website., www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/Pyfrom, 76, was born and raised in Belle Glade and lived in what she referred to as “the projects.” That was when she first learned that “it takes a village to raise a child” because, members of the community would pool their resources and help one another.
“All the adults looked out for the other children in that neighborhood,” Pyfrom said. “We shared our resources. And it was appreciated.” “Estella’s Brilliant Bus,” which takes computer technology and other educational materials to needy schools and communities in Palm Beach County, evolved from ”Project Aspiration,” the idea being to share knowledge with everyone.
“I started this project before I left the school district and the school district was going to give me a bus and customize it,” she said. “But I knew I had to fully develop the concept,” she said.
She discussed it with her husband Willie Pyfrom, she said, and he told her, “It’s your idea and you know what you need to do to make it happen.”
The Pyfroms used their retirement income and the proceeds from the sale of an investment property to help fund the project.
“In my plan the question was, ‘What if I don’t get funding in five years?’ So, my retirement money was the back-up,” she said. “More than a million dollars of our money has gone into this project.”
The bus has served more than 20,000 students in cities such as West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Delray Beach and in the Glades.
Children from Title 1 schools and under-served communities may participate in the program, pre-K through grade 12, for help in reading, math and social studies.
The bus also offers college prep courses, including preparing students for college admission tests such as the SAT.
Foster was tapped as a CNN Hero for establishing Stand Down House, which has helped hundreds of veterans find jobs and housing and fight substance abuse. It is important to bring education and technology to those in need, he said.
“There are many different avenues that are being taken to assist the under-privileged,” Foster said. “As technology is changing, computer knowledge has become essential.”
Without knowing computer technology, many people will be at a disadvantage, he said, praising Pyfrom for her initiative. “Many are in desperate need of those tools that are being introduced,” he said.
Foster said he would like to partner with Pyfrom’s program and get computer training for veterans who do not have transportation to the Stand Down House facility.
“For the past two years, we’ve been awarded funding for our community outreach center at our First Stop resource center, which addresses the needs of our homeless population,” Foster said. “We were awarded $960,000 from the Department of
Veteran’s Affairs Prevention and Intervention two years ago and $300,000 from the Department of Labor to assist in job placement education training to give the homeless job training to improve their ability to find gainful employment.”
Ivory also likes the idea of bringing computer technology to the people who need it. The breast cancer survivor was recognized for establishing the Women’s Breast Health Initiative which offers low-cost or no-cost mammograms to women through mobile services.
She too lauded the “Estella’s Brilliant Bus” program as being important to the community.
“We are reverting in time,” Ivory said. “When I was a little girl, there was a doctor’s office in the neighborhood, there was a dentist’s office. When you take a needed service into a neighborhood” those needs can be met.
Ivory said her program started off serving about 20,000 women in the Miami-Dade County but has expanded into Boward and Palm Beach counties and has expanded its range of services, now reaching more than 60,000.
“We educate women about mammogram screenings but also hypertension and cholesterol screenings,” she said.
Ivory said the trained staff, will include clinicians, teachers of nutrition and healthy lifestyles as part of a comprehensive approach.