John Verdi is no stranger to community building. Together with his wife Ayana, they founded the Verdi EcoSchool, an urban farm school dedicated to hands-on learning. His latest effort, Hey, Blue!, takes an interactive approach to creating meaningful connections between police officers and the communities they serve. A retired law enforcement officer and 9/11 first responder, John knows first-hand the life-changing power of community members and police officers coming together in a tense time of need.
About the Initiative
Through a collaborative partnership with the Melbourne Police Department and Brevard Public Schools, Hey, Blue! hosts Preschool Storytime to VPK classrooms with police officers, building connections through reading books, singing songs, and a special dance party. So far, they have reached over 450 kids in a 6 month period.
Working with Groundswell Startups
Initially, John was looking to develop a mobile app to help citizens and officers log positive experiences and create a platform for interaction. Groundswell Mentors Andy Quintana, CEO/Founder of Slydeck, and Anthony Eden, a software developer and Founder/CEO of DNSimple, met with John to discuss the best strategic approach for Hey, Blue! Thinking through the costs and time to create a mobile app, Groundswell mentors suggested working with high schoolers and college students to create a product that would scan for the hashtag #HeyBlue as a more accessible means of connecting individuals while working on long-term strategic goals. For John, "There is no better place to look for resources that speak to community engagement and business in Brevard County than Groundswell. The Groundswell mentors gave me strategic planning advice and background knowledge into social networking, a component that is essential to the movement."
What's Next for Hey, Blue?
Hey, Blue! continues to make positive waves in Brevard and beyond as partnership talks take place with police departments in Austin, Tx, South Pasadena, CA and more. Most recently, a grant from the MPD helped purchase an additional 750 books for storytime. Hey, Blue!'s Selfies for Change campaign has brought local business es and community members together raising over $1,000 for local families in need.
Follow the Verdi EcoSchool on Facebook and join them every Monday at 9:30 am for a virtual storytime. Don't forget to BYOB - Bring Your Own Bubbles. For more information on the school, the efforts of Hey, Blue! and more about the work the Verdi family does in the Eau Gallie Arts District please visit: https://www.verdiecoschool.org/
About John Verdi
John is a proud husband to his wife Ayana, father to his 2 children Giovanni and Annabella.