Ryland King founded Sprout Up to instill knowledge and appreciation about the environment in young children. He is encouraging a new generation to preserve our world. This free program is offered in elementary schools, teaching children in their earliest years of development. Each student starts with a seed they plant and care for during the program. Through games, discussions, and lessons children learn to care for their environment at school and home.
What was your inspiration or what necessitated you to begin this adventure? Two “Thank you’s” started it all.
As junior in high school, I taught at a local surf camp, where I developed a special connection with a developmentally disabled child. In our week-long journey together, the little boy overcame his fear of the shoreline, conquering the surf and finding his passion.
After signing out the last camper, the child’s mom and dad walked up to me, and with a tone overcome with emotion, told me, “Thank you.” Their son had connected better with them that week than ever before, and they were going to continue coming down to the beach to further what had blossomed in their son.
In that moment, I learned that the promise of teaching youth extends beyond the individual student, significantly impacting the lives of parents and the actions of the community as a whole.
Two years later, I was walking out of a 2nd grade classroom after teaching a sequence of environmental education lessons and felt a tug on the bottom of his shirt. I turned around to look into two young hazel eyes staring at me behind coke-bottle-thick glasses and a beaming buck-tooth smile. The girl looking up at me said, “Ryland, thank you,” and embraced me in a heartfelt hug. From that, the vision blossomed.
A group of motivated college students then got together and turned my vision into their mission, and founded Sprout Up–a nonprofit aimed at promoting environmental stewardship throughout communities, from the youngest members of society up.
Since, we’ve journeyed together from our first class of 25 kids to teaching thousands of kids across California, bringing hundreds of passionate friends on board along the way.
Today, it’s the countless “Thank you’s” our team exchanges with kids, teachers, parents, and communities that continues to shape our story everyday.
What steps did you take to create your program? The first step to creating a program is to get it on paper. Draw it out. After begin showing it to friends and colleagues and continue making new iterations for improvement. In simple terms, this is everything you need to do.
What obstacles were you forced to overcome? In the early days of Sprout Up, the biggest challenge we faced was demonstrating to elementary school teachers, administrators, and parents that we were serious about building a long-term partnership with the school system, and about offering our program completely free of charge. Since we hadn’t yet proven ourselves, it felt like our youth was actually working against us, as many who agreed to meet with us were skeptical about our commitment and ability to execute on the vision we presented. Once we broke into our first few classrooms, however, perceptions rapidly began to change.
What were the hardest problems to solve or actions to take? Running a nonprofit organization while managing a full university course load over the past three years has taught me a lot about the importance of personal sustainability. It’s been overwhelming at times, but I’ve always remembered to take a minute to enjoy the little things in life, share smiles, and communicate with my teammates with 100% honesty. The most important thing I’ve learned is to lead my team the way I live my life: with compassion, authenticity, enthusiasm, and joy above all else.
What must you do to stay operational? My team and I work hard writing grants, managing membership, donation campaigns, and events. We are working with business professionals on creating a strong business plan for greater financial independence that will launch in the coming year.
Who, if anyone, helped you succeed? Sprout Up wouldn’t be where it is today without the incredible community of supporters that have taken up our cause. I work day in and day out knowing that my team of directors and over 200 volunteer instructors share my vision for creating change from the youngest members of society up. When times get tough, I need only look to this group for the inspiration to pull my head up, press on, and continue doing all that I can to make our shared dream a reality.
Do you have any advice for readers who want to get involved or start a similar program? In the early stages of bringing any idea to reality, it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t give up! Build a team of peers that share your vision, and communicate regularly to keep each other motivated, focused, and on the same page. Be patient and start small, but never lose sight of your overarching vision.
Add any additional information? No matter what you do, have fun.
What inspiring people do you know that are creating positive change in their communities?