UCF Student’s Hydroponics & Farming Plan For Bithlo To Be Featured At Clinton Global Initiative Conference

    UCF Student is getting national praise for her hydroponics system and efficient gardening system.


    By Jacob Engels


    Shelby Olson, a senior majoring in Biology at the University of Central Florida (UCF), will be traveling to Arizona State University this spring to represent UCF and Bithlo at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Conference.


    Bithlo, a community located about 8 miles east of UCF, has been neglected for decades. Poor water quality is one of the community’s largest issues—cloudy and deposited filled with sediments, the water in Bithlo was contaminated decades ago by unregulated junkyards, a health hazard that continues to exist and plague the residents.


    Olson, after hearing about the community’s needs from the student-led initiative Project Bithlo, contacted the organization’s Chair Anna V. Eskamani, to take a tour and learn more about the efforts to transform Bithlo.


    “I was amazed,” said Olson. “Though Bithlo has a history of being impoverished, there is a major transformation effort happening and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”


    The transformation efforts that Olson is referring to are being led by United Global Outreach (UGO) a local nonprofit that began working in Bithlo four years ago. Led by Tim McKinney, UGO established “Transformation Village” in Bithlo, an area of about 2 acres that serves as a private school, GED program site, wi-fi hotspot, and community center for meals and other community service events.


    “Seeing Transformation Village is what inspired me to get more involved, and I knew that the Clinton Global Initiative would be the perfect fit,” said Olson.


    Part of CGIU’s program is a new featured called “Commitments to Action.” These are specific and measurable initiatives that address global challenges across CGIU’s five focus areas of education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. Olson’s project focuses on the environmental sector, and will involve the construction of a hydroponics system that will allow for a sustainable, efficient gardening structure that will require ninety percent less water than conventional farming systems, thus giving Bithlo more agricultural mobility.


    The beginning of Shelby’s vison for Bithlo.


    This project will allow for partnership too, something that Eskamani of Project Bithlo is very excited about: “Project Bithlo is built on partnerships, and this new endeavor will give us the chance to work even more closely with groups like Volunteer UCF and Engineers Without Borders.”


    This CGIU project will focus very heavily on service learning too, allowing all UCF students to gain hands on experience on hydroponics, sustainability, and service. One of the biggest pushes right now is raise more funds for the project; thus far over $2000 has been raised. Donations can be made here, by clicking here.


    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at info@eastorlandopost.com