My name is Betsy Julien. I am a teacher and parent in the Hopkins School District. I teach at a small community school called Glen Lake Elementary! Many of my friends went there growing up, and now my own kiddos go there as well. It's a magical school where around 460 students attend, and 8 of those students use a wheelchair (one being our youngest child, Luke).
For the last several years, it's been a dream of mine to transform our upper playground into a beautiful fully inclusive magical place where ALL of our GL kiddos can play, laugh, and share the love of the outdoors together. My classroom overlooks the playground. Everyday I witness the inequities of an old playground. Wood chips do not mesh with wheelchairs. My heart aches when this is my view each and every day.
This fall, I wrote an initial grant to Hopkins Education Foundation and was awarded $35,000 towards a wheelchair swing and merry-go-round. With additional district allocated funds and our Parent Teacher Organization, we were able to secure $100, 000 towards this project (The overall cost for a wheelchair swing and merry-go-round is $135,000). I announced this exciting news to my students, told them we were really close to meeting our budget, needed only $35,000 more, and they immediately said, "Can't we just do the entire playground? We will help you!"
Honestly, this almost brought me to tears. So, I went back to my principal and asked if we could just shoot for the moon and try to make the entire upper playground accessible for ALL of our students. We made a DREAM BIG goal of trying to raise an additional $300,000. My 25 students in my class have been busy making promo letters, flyers, posters, cold calling, delivering flyers to neighbors and local businesses and cover letters being sent to large companies.
Inclusive playgrounds are rare and hard to find in the cities, AND they are so expensive to put in. Having a fully inclusive playground would not only be a huge asset to our school.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (February 2023)