- Adventures to Dreams Enrichment (AtDE) was founded in 2015 by “Ms. Sheila” Grantham, a former pre-school owner, Director, early childhood educator, and mentor. While teaching, a student expressed that he and his siblings weren’t allowed to play outside on the weekends because of the dangers in their neighborhood. Ms. Sheila listened to his words and put a plan into action! Ms. Sheila is an innovative community leader with a strong passion for exposing youth to experiences that transcend their norms. She thought, “I must do something to expose these kids to a positive environment on the weekends!” Ms. Sheila began Adventures to Dreams Enrichment with her own savings, and has been able to grow and sustain the program with the help of donations along the way.
Adventures to Dreams Enrichment is an organization dedicated to providing hands-on education, mentorship, and inspiring youth to Dream BIG. AtDE serves youth, ages 4 – 14, who live in at-risk neighborhoods and teaches them about Gardening/Sustainability, STEM, Art, and Culinary skills. The youth involved in this unique, year-round program live in Long Beach, California. Adventures to Dreams goal is to engage youth by exposing them green spaces, recreational activities, safe play, tactile learning environments, and other external experiences that enrich their lives, inspire them to reach their potential, and become productive members of society.
- 2016 – 2017
In January 2016, Ms. Sheila reached out to Joe Corsco, Garden Director at Long Beach Organic, in order to acquire garden plots to launch AtDE’s gardening activities. She was determined to get the program in full swing, and did so, once Joe approved her request. That same year, Ms. Sheila was a recipient of the Villager Award for “Making A Difference” in the community.
In 2017, Ms. Sheila became an honorary member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (CSULB) for her commitment to the ideals of scholarship, leadership, and service to the community.
- 2018 – 2019
In December 2018, Ms. Sheila was faced with the decision of closing AtDE because the program had grown to 25 kids, and her savings were exhausted. In late January, she received a grant from Whole Kids Foundation/Garden Grant program, and an anonymous donor, which was enough to continue operations.
In 2019, Ms. Sheila dreamed BIG, and deployed a strategy to accommodate growing program needs. Her goal was to revitalize a local park in Long Beach, CA by developing a safe, functional green space for AtDE youth, and the surrounding community by partnering with Long Beach City Parks and Recreation. She envisioned a space with multiple gardening plots, an outdoor kitchen, a play area, exercise area, restrooms, a storage area, and a small office. The space will allow AtDE to engage more youth, volunteers, and surrounding communities, and employ students from local colleges. With more food production, AtDE youth can continue to take it home, and host bi-weekly farmer’s markets to increase community access to healthy and affordable produce.
Ms. Sheila is a California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) alumna, and she has formed strong connections with several campus organizations who consistently volunteer their time with AtDE, proving time after time, that giving back is very important. She has also connected with some Long Beach sustainability organizations like Long Beach Fresh and Long Beach Organic, which beliefs in improving access to locally-grown, seasonal and sustainably grown food in Long Beach. Additionally, Ms. Sheila recently became a member of The Nonprofit Partnership, in order to build the capacity of AtDE, so it can continue to make positive change in the community.
- 2020 – 2021
In January, Ms. Sheila was a recipient of the Long Beach Hero award which honors local unsung heroes.
Amidst the COIVID – 19 pandemic, Ms. Sheila continued executing her plans to expand Adventures to Dreams, and relocate operations from a shared space (South 40 Community Garden), to its own space, at a Long Beach community park. In February, her plans manifested into reality when she formed a partnership with the City of Long Beach Parks and Recreation. She was granted 10,000 sq ft. of land at Drake-Chavez-Greenbelt Park @ 903 Fairbanks Ave, Long Beach, Ca 90813 (District 1) in order to build a youth garden and hands-on activity center.
The garden development was delayed as COVID – 19 quarantine/stay in place orders were put in place statewide. In June, the Adventure team launched a campaign to raise funds for land development. The first items on the list consisted of a fence to secure the land and shipping container to house supplies and equipment. The team’s efforts resulted in $12k in monetary donations which covered 3/4 of fence installation, along with garden supplies and equipment donated by Lowe’s, Store #785, and amazing volunteers have helped build garden beds and assist our youth with planting and maintaining the garden.
AtDE kicked off at its new location with its second year of Summer cooking classes. The program is currently CDC/COVID – 19 approved to operate and the team is following the safety guidelines necessary to stay in compliance.
Ms. Sheila’s current efforts are focused on acquiring grant funding and other necessary resources to complete garden development (see garden blueprint image below), and secure 2021 operation resources. She is also reaching out to form more partnerships with organizations that have an interest in youth development, engagement, and empowerment, especially when it comes to healthy outcomes, and the potential for them to become productive members of society.
In 2021, Ms. Sheila plans to expand the curriculum to include: Environmental lessons water quality, pollution prevention and how gardens help remove carbon from the atmosphere, improving air quality; The goal is to teach the next generation about environmental responsibility and environmental protection in order to promote responsible stewardship.
In addition, she wants to integrate an entrepreneurial curriculum which will touch on the relationship between growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and spices native to a region that can be sold to the community at Farmer’s markets, or exported and sold anywhere in the world, and shipped through ports. Hands on activities will include selling harvested food at local Farmer’s markets.
Adventures to Dreams Enrichment is a vital resource for children, families, and the communities it serves.
Ms. Sheila wholeheartedly believes in positively shaping youth to be well rounded and prepared for their futures!
Busy hands = Busy Minds!