Estella Pyform refused a quiet retirement.
After the 76-year-old former guidance counselor left the Palm Beach County School District after 48 years of dedicated work, tediously pruning a garden or a quiet beach stroll through the dimming rays of a Florida sunset simply wasn't her definition of retirement bliss.
Following a brief return to the school system for a couple of years, Pyform was struck with an idea that she knew would benefit the underprivileged students she encountered during her time as an educator. She had seen firsthand the effects the lack of digital resources had on her students and she was determined to assist them through her innovative plan – buy a bus and fit it with computer equipment to help students and families that lacked digital resources in her community.
The daughter of migrant farm workers, Pyform learned the value of hard work at a young age – understanding she put to work as she took on the challenge of making her bus a reality. Pumping much of her and her husband’s personal savings into the project, she faced constant questions from people curious about her reasons for taking on the ambitious endeavor.
“People would ask, ‘Why did you put your own money in it?’ But if you start a project, you’ve got to know how you finish it. So I knew the success of that project was going to be up to me,” Pyform told IBTimes.
“I sat down and worked out what do I want this bus to do. I want this bus to be able to get out in the neighborhoods and communities and do almost everything we could do in a school building with the technology involved. That was my effort to help build the digital divide.”
Pyform’s dream realized features 17 computer stations that are connected to the Internet by satellite. The bus offers services for toddlers through senior citizens. The programs are catered to their specific needs, ranging from courses on reading and math to computer-assisted tutoring. The younger students are even able to retrieve their lessons once they leave the bus, using any location and device on which they can access the Internet. They use their same login information and can pick up lessons from where they left off, and Pyform remains updated on their progress.
From courses and tutorials for college students to resume and job search assistance for adults, Pyform has provided a resource that offers something for all kinds of people in need of a little assistance. And though she continues to pump money from her savings into the project, she is hopeful of getting additional backing in the next couple of years. And her latest honor as a L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth may go a long way in helping ease those financial needs – with the top honoree receiving an additional $25,000 grant toward her project.
Pyform, who said she was “beginning to get a little excited” about the special honor, is ecstatic that she can share knowledge and resources with those in need around her community through her bus.
“I can’t solve all the problems. But I can help,” said Pyform. “I’m grateful.”
Always the forward thinker, Pyform says she's dreaming up even bigger ideas for the coming year. And though she won't divulge all the details, she freely shares the key to her success and what drives her to continue her goal to help others each day.
“You can take almost any dream, put together a plan of action and make it happen if you’re willing to work. It won’t be easy. But you’ve got to work at it.”
Treye Green is a reporter for The International Business Times and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Green has shot, edited and...