Park Bench Chat

Park Bench Chat: Community Schoolyards™ projects – a common-sense solution for students and America’s Park equity problem

Thank you for joining us for a virtual Park Bench Chat on September 15 at 2:00 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. ET to explore the untapped potential of America’s schoolyards.

When: September 15, at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET 

Of the 90,000 public schoolyards in the U.S., less than 1 percent of them are rich in green space and stay open to the neighborhood outside of school hours. Swapping out blacktop for trees, gardens, and up-to-date play equipment in our nation’s schoolyards provides one of the greatest opportunities we have to help students reach their academic potential and help combat the impacts of climate change. And if every public schoolyard in America functioned as a shared outdoor space during non-school hours, some 20 million more people would have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of home.

At The Trust for Public Land, we’ve worked alongside communities across the country to transform nearly 300 public schoolyards into great public parks. Thank you for joining media trailblazer and Trust for Public Land volunteer leader Jocelyn Dorsey for a Park Bench Chat with Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Tull Charitable Foundation Executive Director Gabrielle Kreisler Sheely, and The Trust for Public Land’s Schoolyards Initiative Director Danielle Denk.

They shared examples of how Community Schoolyards® projects are transforming underused outdoor schoolyard space into vibrant public parks—full of trees, shade, and places to exercise, play, and learn. They also explored how this solution to solve America’s park equity divide can be scaled nationwide through public, NGO, and philanthropic partnerships.

Moderator: Jocelyn Dorsey
Georgia Advisory Board Member

Jocelyn Dorsey spent more than four decades as a decorated journalist and media executive for Atlanta’s ABC station, WSB-TV. She was the first African American news anchor in the Atlanta market as well as the first woman and African-American to receive the Georgia Association of Broadcasters (GAB) Broadcaster’s Citizen of the Year Award, a lifetime-achievement award. As a philanthropist, community advocate and activist, Jocelyn has also spent decades working on behalf of academic, health and community-impact organizations including The Trust for Public Land, Ohio State University’s School of Communications, UNICEF USA, Thanks Mom & Dad Fund, Sisters By Choice, AG Rhodes, Communities in Schools Atlanta, and the Atlanta Victim’s Assistance Board. As a volunteer leader for The Trust for Public Land, Jocelyn works to raise awareness and engage decision-makers on the role that parks and green-space play in ensuring healthy, livable communities in Georgia and beyond.


Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
Oakland Unified School District superintendent

Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell has led Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as Superintendent since July 2017, the same district where she attended elementary school. Johnson has long championed for policies and public funding initiatives that promote environmental education and equitable access to nature. Under her leadership, and working with TPL, OUSD passed a visionary policy to transform asphalt-covered school grounds into living schoolyards that promote children’s health and well-being, and create ecologically rich community parks that connect children and their neighborhoods to the natural world. With a focus on equity, the policy also provides a roadmap for implementing this plan districtwide. Johnson-Trammell earned a B.A. in Communications from the Univ. of Pennsylvania, teaching credential from CSU, Hayward, an administrative credential (M.A.) and her Ed.D in Educational Leadership from the UC Berkeley. She and her husband are raising two children who attend Oakland Schools.

Gabby Sheely
Executive Director of the Tull Charitable Foundation

Gabrielle (Gabby) Kreisler Sheely is the Executive Director of the Tull Charitable Foundation, one of the largest independent foundations serving the metro Atlanta area. The Foundation seeks to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations supporting marginalized populations and increasing equitable access to the supports and resources needed to live, work and raise families in Atlanta. The Foundation has partnered with The Trust for Public Land on the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program, which transforms asphalt playgrounds into inviting, climate-friendly, natural spaces for all to enjoy. This approach will soon be scaled region-wide. Sheely’s career spans 25 years in leadership, policy, and capacity-building roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. She worked with Together Georgia on recommendations for the child welfare system, served as a judge for the Emerson Collective’s XQ Super School Project and facilitated program and policy implementation for student support services across the New York City Public School System under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sheely holds a J.D. degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a B.S. in Business from Skidmore College.

Danielle Denk
Schoolyards Initiative director, ASLA, RA

Danielle is the Schoolyards Initiative director at The Trust for Public Land where she works across the organization to enable the local, state and federal systems for equitable community schoolyards nationwide.  Prior to that, Danielle directed and managed The Parks for People Program in Camden and Philadelphia where she worked directly with schools and communities to transform asphalt schoolyards and parks into vibrant, healthy, climate- smart centers for resilience and health. With over 25 years’ experience in public space design and development, Danielle see’s access to high quality public space as a human right.   Danielle has a professional degree in architecture and urban design from Kent State University and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from The University of Pennsylvania. When not working, Danielle can be found hiking, biking and kayaking with her family on the trails in the Wissahickon Valley.