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College of Business

CWU students unveil accessible playground donation to Ellensburg elementary students

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — The season of giving was on full display today, when Ellensburg’s Valley View Elementary School officially unveiled a special gift of a wheelchair swing, made possible by students from Central Washington University.

The students were enrolled in a CWU College of Business leadership capstone class, which required them to develop and complete a community-enhancement project.

“They were pretty much all graduating seniors in Business Administration,” said CWU management professor James Avey, the course instructor, who took part in Tuesday’s unveiling.

“It’s designed to basically be a ‘prove it’ class. Students are given limited guidance and structure. I tell them ‘you’re graduating with a specialization in leadership—prove to me you can lead something.’”

The project, which initially began last spring quarter, involved raising about $4,000 to allow for purchase and installation of the specialized swing at Valley View.

“We have the autism and life-skills programs for the entire [Ellensburg School] District so all students with those special needs come to our school,” noted Valley View Principal Rob Moffat at Tuesday’s event. “We now have step one completed in developing a truly adaptive playground, providing opportunities for kids that can’t access the regular playground. The cost of something like this [wheelchair-capable swing] is very expensive. So, to have people willing to donate their money, time, and effort to bring it here is truly appreciated. This will be used well into the future.”

Hannah Long, 7, a second-grade student at Valley View, who is wheelchair reliant, was the first Valley View student to make use of the new swing, and indicated she enjoyed it. CWU senior Hannah Fallon, from Vancouver, enjoyed watching. She was among the students enrolled in the CWU leadership class. She also helped to drive the project to completion.

Fallon says the idea for the swing came about after she, and her classmates, saw a video about such a device on the Internet.

“The child in the wheelchair [swing] just seemed to look so happy and they were pretty much overjoyed to be included in something and have something for them that they could use,” she said. “When we saw that, we were like ‘Wow!’ We want to bring that same statement of inclusivity and happiness to people here in Ellensburg.”

They did, including through the help of the Generations of Ellensburg, Kiwanis, and Rotary non-profit, community service organization, which assisted efforts to get the specialized equipment installed ahead of the unveiling. 

Avey added that his class showed incredible perseverance in seeing the project through despite the fact that it was technically completed last Spring.

“They definitely wanted to finish what they started,” Avey stated. “But they had to navigate logistics in shipping, fundraising, insurance, public-education requirements, installation, and other aspects to do it, and they did. I am super proud of them.”

Fallon added, “Honestly, I think this was the most ‘real-world’ situation that I’ve ever had to deal with. It was really awesome for me to be able to use all the skills that I’ve learned in the classroom and actually apply them to a project that meant something—in a project that you can actually feel and see the impacts.”

It wasn’t the only such project for Avey’s capstone leadership class. Those enrolled join small teams, which cast a vision, develop a structure and the necessary roles to accomplish the plan, and then they do it.

“Most of the projects have had some type of local impact and have included schools, teachers, military servicemen and servicewomen, community gardens, and parks and recreation,” Avey noted. “But, they always surprise me.”

Other projects have included providing women’s health supplies for trafficked Cambodian girls in a recovery house, raising more than $5,000 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and hosting a softball game for children with special needs.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu

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