UNITED STATES


2021 Ford College Community Challenge Winning Projects

Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Founded by students at Harvard University in 2011, Refresh Bolivia remains a student-run nonprofit with a goal of using the Ford College Community Challenge grant to expand its integrated health clinic in the underserved community of Cochabamba, Bolivia with an adjacent vaccine center. In partnership with the nonprofit Fundación Nuqanchik, the new vaccine center will administer 10 different vaccines, including COVID-19, and increase the local vaccination rate by 90%. Currently, vaccines must be administered within two days of delivery because of inadequate space and storage equipment. The closest alternative vaccination site is a two-hour round trip which discourages families from seeking these important medicines. Government distributors have been enlisted to provide a freezer once adequate space is available in the new vaccine center. After construction is completed, Refresh Bolivia students will continue to help manage the center’s daily operation, including staffing the clinic and documenting vaccine administration. This is the fourth Ford College Community Challenge awarded to the Refresh Bolivia team, previous grants were in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.

Led by a doctoral candidate in the teacher education department at Michigan State University, project Designing for Exploring Math Outdoors (DEMO) will invite children to design, build and test innovative, affordable and replicable outdoor play ideas that promote health, learning and exploration, specifically in math. In partnership with the nonprofit Design for Change (USA) as well as the 4-H extension office at Michigan State University, the project will help at least 600 elementary grade children experience playful learning opportunities. At least 40 pre-service teachers will also have the opportunity to participate in the project.

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Project Appalachia is awarded a Ford College Community Challenge grant to help the Enactus student team from Rutgers University create a program for West Virginians using regenerative agriculture. The goal of the program is to create access to sustainable employment, educational opportunities and healthy food. To assist the student team, they have partnered with a nonprofit organization called Sprouting Farms, which supports sustainable agriculture and economic development programs to create jobs in economically distressed communities. Sprouting Farms also provides farm business training and resources to build the regional markets necessary to enable these businesses. In areas where former coal mines are no longer in operation, students with Project Appalachia hope to adopt unused land to build climate-resilient communities and local food systems that will contribute to environmental well-being. The project inspires to produce a near-zero waste agricultural program with zero environmental emissions through this process, while saving tens of thousands of gallons of water.

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Funding from the Ford College Community Challenge will help the Rutgers Enactus team and their nonprofit partner Bighelp for Education start a social enterprise in India to hire underprivileged or domestically abused women and people with special needs to manufacture agarbatti, incense that is used within households of all commonly practiced religions in India. Incense must be replaced once its wick and scent run out, so the product is always in demand. The agarbatti company will pay an hourly wage to all employees and sponsor their children’s education. Incentives will be offered to help employees sustain themselves and their families while working. Bighelp’s team in India will be providing outreach resources, a workforce and access to rural communities. Bighelp will also be responsible for providing free education to the children of employees. The business will employ a professional mentor to teach volunteers and guide the local workers on how to make agarbattis. The business intends to build an atmosphere that encourages learning, sustainability, and independence. By providing jobs with proper wages and financing their children’s educations, employees will be empowered to become financially independent.

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Inspired by an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique called bilateral stimulation tapping, funding from the Ford College Community Challenge will assist Engineers Without Borders at The Ohio State University to design and build bilateral stimulation tappers for stress reduction or emotional management. During tactile bilateral stimulation the user holds two items that alternately vibrate and mimic REM sleep. Studies show that bilateral stimulation promotes emotional regulation and relaxation which can be effective even for people without mental health issues. The community-based nonprofit Wellbeing Connection will play an essential role by selecting schools and distributing the devices where they are needed and supplying kits to middle and high school students. Learning to build the tappers helps students develop engineering and problem-solving skills and allows for conversations surrounding mental health and wellbeing.

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Food insecurity is a serious concern in communities across the U.S. and COVID-19 only made the crisis worse. A 2018 study by The Ohio State University found that one-third of households in nearby neighborhoods self-reported food insecurity, and yet there are over 400 empty parcels of land being held by the Columbus Land Bank that could be used to grow food. Most of these neglected parcels are in the same underserved areas that report people are hungry. Funding through the Ford College Community Challenge will help the team accelerate their plans to build community gardens in underserved areas with a focus on providing healthy and accessible food to those who need it. In partnership with Columbus Community Schools, community involvement and volunteers will be encouraged to assist in the upkeep and development of the gardens to foster a sense of self-dependency and achievement. Beyond providing access to food, this project will also add decorative flora and amenities that will create areas of beauty and relaxation.

Wayne State University, Detroit

Detroit Biodiversity Network is a student organization that promotes sustainable practices by demonstrating organic gardening, growing native plants, and educating about their use in various landscapes. Students from the Detroit Biodiversity Network, Healthy Urban Waters, and the Transformative Research in Urban Sustainability and Training program are currently working on an EPA grant project with the Chandler Park Conservancy to install and monitor groundwater wells at several green stormwater infrastructure projects. The grant funding from the Ford College Community Challenge will help students and the Chandler Park Conservancy monitor and evaluate green stormwater infrastructure, install a gabion retaining wall, provide additional native plants, train volunteers to collect, treat and plant seed for future needs, and assist in the new community garden. Students will also collect data on project reach and efficacy to determine adjustments for future programming.

Wayne State University, Detroit

This Canfield Connect Project aims to create a safe pedestrian greenway utilizing vacant lots and alleys that will connect the East Canfield neighborhood in Detroit from nearby Brewer Playfield to Pingree Park. Ford College Community Challenge grant funding will help the students develop detailed design options for the “Canfield Connect” that would increase access to recreation space and improve walkability for people in the area, including the senior walking club. In partnership with the nonprofit Canfield Consortium, students will gather input from the community about the plan and begin work on a green community trail of low-cost lots featuring low-maintenance, flood preventing, native plants. Students will organize and manage volunteers in the installation process and develop a design guidebook that outlines strategies to be replicated by other Detroit neighborhoods.

Wayne State University, Detroit

Together with the nonprofit Detroit Food Policy Council and its working group, the Detroit Grocery Coalition, students from the Wayne State University Community Health program have received grant funding from the Ford College Community Challenge for the Great Grocer Project Employee Wellness Initiative. The project will let employees of at least 25 independently owned grocery stores have access to a workplace wellness program that is engaging in healthier physical, cultural, and emotional wellness behaviors, such as better nutrition, physical activity and stress management. The project is expected to indirectly affect the family health environment in employee homes and result in a more positive impact on the customer experience within stores. Students will focus on design, implementation, and evaluation of the project and recruiting stores to participate. They will serve as the point of contact for the stores and be directly involved in the preparation of wellness programing material, promotion and evaluation.

Wayne State University, Detroit

The Ford College Community Challenge grant was awarded to students at Wayne State University, to help their vision of creating a green space in the city of Pontiac that benefits the community and the environment. The students proposed installing a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) management system that protects, restores, and mimics the natural water cycle. It also has the potential to reduce sewage costs and water bills. The project would include a bioswale, native prairie grasses and living tree architectural structure composed of more than 1,000 willow trees grafted together. Partner nonprofit Reroot Pontiac has worked with students for several years on biodiversity, often incorporating projects into biology and environmental science classes. Reroot Pontiac's role is that of landowner and project co-designer. Moreover, Reroot Environmental is an organization the provides training for students and local residents in installation and maintenance of GSI, which allows credentials from the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program. Making this certification available to the community offers potential economic benefits and will help build interest in the educational opportunities this project presents.