Cnn Heroes

Patricia Kelly Offers Riders Reins to Their Dreams


Patricia Kelly is founder/president/CEO/ head riding instructor of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc., located in Hartford, Conn. Ebony Horsewomen is an organization “to empower youth toward successful lives through the use of equine-assisted-growth learning."   The CEO of the organization for the past 30 years, Mrs. Kelly is also a former United States Marine.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Kelly shares about the difference perspective makes, how your childhood can shape your dreams and how to know if you are pursuing the right dream.

Sam's Dream Blog: In the Hartford Courant, you were quoted as saying, “Urban children are denied so much. What we are trying to do is unlock the genius, the brilliance in children to live their best life. We want to unlock the caged heart so that they will dream, and dream big." What difference does it make to get someone out of his or her environment for a little while so that they can experience something like Ebony Horsewomen offers?

Patricia Kelly: The answer to that is perspective. When your perspective, based upon experiences and resources, is limited, your perspective of the world is limited. You tend to think that all that there is what you have been able to experience. Often, youth in the inner city are not afforded experiences and resources to grow their perspective. It’s important to broaden a child’s perspective so that they can get a more global picture of the world, rather than only what’s in their limited neighborhood.

SDB: You mentioned children.  What age group does Ebony Horsewomen serve?

Patricia Kelly: Five to 19, although we have one program that goes up to 28. That’s the mounted patrol, our park rangers. We have our own park rangers in Keeney Park, where we are located. Keeney Park is 693 acres. We do it as a courtesy.

What is it about Ebony Horsewomen that is able to unlock people in a unique way?

Patricia Kelly: There are a number of things. We are in the middle of a metropolitan area that has the largest city park in New England. Keeney Park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same guy who designed Central Park.

Within this park, we have the ability to introduce country life and settings, agriculture on several levels. We have farm land here that we grow crops on. Not only do we grow the crops, but once the crops have been harvested, we teach the kids how to prepare the food.  They cook the food, and they learn the nutrition. That’s one aspect.

The second thing is we use equine-assisted therapy. Many of our children have difficulties in school, and some in the community. Many of them are suffering despair and depression. The equine-assisted therapy allows them to receive therapy without the stigma. We use horses to bring them to some answers in their situation.

Then, of course, the experience of learning how to ride a horse is another level that has a couple of different benefits to it. It’s the physical benefit, the emotional benefit, and the benefit of focused concentration and the ability to execute instructions that you are given as you are being taught how to ride. Those kinds of things are transferable to schoolwork.

SDB: Is there a success story that comes to mind?

Patricia Kelly: We have been doing this for 31 years. There are hundreds of success stories [from alumni.] We have one young lady who is a civil rights attorney for the federal government in Washington, D.C.  We have teachers. We have one young woman who is at Harvard University right now on a full scholarship. We have nurses and teachers and principals and business owners.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

SDB: What about your passion?  How did Ebony Horsewomen come about?

Patricia Kelly: It’s a complicated story, but it started in childhood when I was introduced to my first horse from a Jewish neighbor.  It stuck.  It became an obsession for me, a passion for me.  When I got out of the Marine Corps, I settled in my spirit that this was something I was going to pursue.  I was going to flush it out a little bit more, if you will.  Upon my attempt to do that, it became crystal clear to me that this in fact was my passion to do.

Thanks for reading Sam’s Dream Blog! Learn more about Ebony Horsewomen here

Dreams: Sam's Dream Blog Celebrates 100 Inspirations

This is a big week on Sam’s Dream Blog!  Here at SDB, it’s celebration time for 100 posts.  Whether you have read every post, several posts, or maybe you are making your first visit, thank you.    

Here are some highlights from the first 100 posts. Follow the underlined links for the full interviews.

1. Writer Will Leitch graciously helped to kickstart SDB. First and foremost on the journey toward your dreams, Leitch says, "You have to be willing to go down with the ship. You can’t look for an escape hatch."

2. Now that you’re committed to your dream journey, per Will’s advice, Dallas Mavericks owner and business mogul Mark Cuban has this to say: "You have to determine whether or not you are willing to commit to working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week?"

3. While you’re at it, "Learn whatever you can from whoever is going to offer it. Every day you should be learning something new," San Francisco sous chef Adam Nichol says.

4. Of course, maybe your dream pursuit cannot be at the forefront of your life right now, due to other limitations for the time being.  Take heart in what leadership expert John Maxwell says: "When it comes to being an authority on a subject, spend one hour a day, five days a week, for five years. Earl Nightingale says that by doing that, you can become an expert on any subject?"

5. If all that sounds daunting, think back to your childhood, Harvard Business Review contributor and TEDx speaker Whitney Johnson says: "Each experience that we have, the good and especially the things that happen to us that we don’t deserve, shapes our dreams.  For example, one of my biggest dreams, which is to encourage others, came, I think, [because I didn’t hear enough] encouraging words as a child.  I deserved that, and I long for that sometimes. Yet, without that, would I even have felt [compelled] to begin writing about dreams in the first place?"

6.  "Exhaust all opportunities for growth," including volunteering, career expert Alexandra Levit says.

7.  Speaking of opportunities, "It’s important to know you want to do things the right way, no matter if it takes longer to accomplish. I guess it’s just being patient," Hollywood manager and producer Trevor Kaufman says.

8. Drybar’s Alli Webb has this to say about your dream pursuits: "It’s key to identify your target consumer and to make sure the need for your business really exists on a scale large enough to sustain the business for the long haul. Then execution is the next hurdle. Be prepared to work tirelessly to really nurture your idea."

9. Candy connoisseur and Sugarfina co-founder Rosie O’Neill keeps her advice about dreams short and sweet: "Try new things as often as possible, stick with what you like, and don’t waste your time with the things you don’t like? Life’s too short."

10. Finally, remember this advice from Estella’s Brilliant Bus inspiration, Estella Pyfrom:.. "Don’t shy away from your dreams. Don’t listen to negative people that say it’s not going to happen.  If you have a dream and you are willing to work for that to make it happen, it can happen."

If any of these comments particularly resonated with you, let me know below, and share with a friend!

Estella Pyfrom and Estella's Brilliant Bus Sparkle in Sunshine


courtesy of Estella Pyfrom and CNN

Estella’s Brilliant Bus was designed and created by Estella Pyfrom. It is a customized mobile learning center, designed to travel to communities and deliver services to underprivileged children and families in Palm Beach, Martin and Broward Counties in Florida.  Estella has organized and operated a food pantry and is now a partner with Feeding South Florida. She has also piloted a tutoring program for children of homeless families.

Sam's Dream Blog: How has your dream for Estella’s Brilliant Bus evolved?

Estella Pyfrom: My dream was to [increase from serving] one neighborhood to serving other neighborhoods, helping kids with their learning skills.  My goal was to be able to get into a partnership with other community agencies so that I could provide more services to underprivileged families.  The project has grown to multiple facets of community service.  We’re getting parents involved with the kids. We have had language classes for adults.  Basically, we address the needs of the community.  That’s what I envisioned when I started with the Bus, not just a bus but a movement.

SDB: What was the key to having that dream take off?

Estella Pyfrom: I think the key to having this project take off is that people are worn out from negative stuff day in and day out. I think it’s time we focus more on the positives, what we can do to help individuals, families and businesses, rather than accentuating the negatives.  I have people who come to me and say, 'I want to help you accomplish your mission because I believe in your mission.’

SDB: Why is it important to focus on the positive?

Estella Pyfrom: I think positive things help put people in a position where they can improve their lifestyles.  What I say to my volunteers is I don’t want to burn my good energy on a bunch of negative things.  I’d rather save my good energy to accentuate positive things.

SDB: I read that you worked 50 years in the school district before creating Estella’s Brilliant Bus. What kept you going?

Estella Pyfrom: What motivated me to stay in the school district that long is that I thoroughly loved working with families and school children helping them help themselves, the mentoring part of it. I was inspired to do that because I grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood. People in the neighborhood really helped each other.  We didn’t have very much money, but whatever resources they had, they shared with each other. Really, it took a village to raise the children.  It helped us learn how to share and give back to our communities.

SDB: What’s the key to finding a passion like you have?

Estella Pyfrom: I would say to the young people, don’t shy away from your dreams. Don’t listen to negative people that say it’s not going to happen.  If you have a dream and you are willing to work for that to make it happen, it can happen.

My mom and dad made us believe we could accomplish almost anything if we were willing to work at it. I’d say to the young people, don’t let people tell you what you can’t do. You have to be the one to give it a try and work at it. If you can and are willing to work at it, you can make it happen.

That’s what my dad said, 'You weren’t born with a silver platter.’  Nobody’s going to hand you anything, but there are a lot of good things that can happen to you. If it’s going to happen, you’ve got to be the one to make it happen. It may take you a little longer to accomplish something if it’s something new, but don’t give up on it.

I had five siblings. My parents were migrants.  When I was a kid, we couldn’t even sit on a bus. All the seats were taken by people of other colors.  I went from not being able to sit on a bus, to where I could ride on the bus with the same options as other people, to owning a bus.

SDB: What’s your advice in terms of knowing when to keep working on a dream vs. when to just let it go and move on?

Estella Pyfrom: What I learned from Disney is that creative people always look for better ways of doing things.  A 'no’ doesn’t always mean a 'no.’ It means that you need to look at another option.

SDB: Anything else you would like to add?

Estella Pyfrom: When you are working on any project, do your research.  Do your homework and make sure you devoted the time and the effort to what you need to do to make it work.  You have to realize maybe other people may not understand. You have to make a commitment to yourself and to your cause.

Learn more about Estella Pyfrom and Estella's Brilliant Bus here, and check back for the next Sam’s Dream Blog post on Tue., Nov. 11

GirlForward: Advancing Dreams

Blair Brettschneider is the founder and executive director of GirlForward, an organization that provides adolescent refugee girls with individual mentorship, educational programs and leadership opportunities.  In 2013, CNN tabbed her as a CNN Hero.  More recently "Forbes" tabbed her as one of its 30 Under 30 Women selections for 2017.

Dreaming Made Simple: What's your dream for GirlForward? How did your dream originate?

Blair Brettschneider: My dream for GirlForward is to provide refugee girls in the United States with the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. When I moved to Chicago in 2010, I worked at a refugee resettlement agency, which helps families and individuals once they receive resettlement in the U.S. I got to know one of the girls whose family was served by the agency - Domi, who was 18 at the time and a refugee from Burundi. Working one-on-one with her on homework, I got to see all of the challenges she faced in her new life in Chicago, but also learned how driven she was to succeed in high school and go to college. I knew there were other refugee girls like her, and in 2011, I started GirlForward, an organization dedicated solely to empowering refugee girls from diverse backgrounds, now resettled in the U.S. Our programs address the five biggest challenges faced by refugee girls: poverty, language barrier, social isolation, a need for positive role models and limited/interrupted education. Our programs give girls the tools and resources they need to overcome these obstacles and achieve their goals.

Dreaming Made Simple: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Blair Brettschneider: I'm extremely proud of what our girls have accomplished, from graduating from high school, to being accepted into college, to opening their first bank accounts. In terms of GirlForward as an organization, I'm proud of how much we have been able to do in a short amount of time. In a little more than three years, we have served over 100 girls from 14 different countries.

Dreaming Made Simple: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges?

Blair Brettschneider: The hardest part of running an organization, in my opinion, is that you can never be completely prepared for the obstacles or challenges that are going to arise. I'm a pretty organized person, and we have great structure in place, but the things that are hard are never things you see coming. Earlier on, we had a girl whose plans to attend college were almost derailed by an arranged marriage. It was something I had never dealt with before, and I was very unsure of what would happen. We had a discussion about it, and she ended up talking to her parents about her desire to go to college and how this marriage could really put that in jeopardy. They understood her concerns and decided not to go through with it.

Sometimes things come up that you are not prepared for, and you have to learn as you go. My advice to people in pursuit of their dreams, whatever they are, is to have confidence in yourself, first and foremost. GirlForward would not be where it is today if I had not gone into every meeting fully confident that we would accomplish our goals. No one wants to fund an organization led by a person who isn't sure it's going to work out! Be confident and others will have confidence in you, too.

Learn more about GirlForward here