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Komensky Elementary School students raise money for inclusive playground

Our American Voice facilitator Dan King and students give a tour Dec. 4 of the improvements needed to make the playground at Komensky Elementary School in Berwyn more inclusive.
Our American Voice facilitator Dan King and students give a tour Dec. 4 of the improvements needed to make the playground at Komensky Elementary School in Berwyn more inclusive.

BERWYN – Alexis Navarro, a fifth-grader at Komensky Elementary School, wants to make sure all the students at her school are able to play and have fun at recess while using the playground, so she and other fifth-graders are raising money to purchase new equipment that will allow students with disabilities to enjoy the playground.

“Our playground has wood chips, so kids in wheelchairs can’t play because the wheelchairs can’t go through the chips,” said Navarro, 11. “It’s important for them to have some fun. We don’t have that much equipment for all the kids, and we want more equipment so everyone can play.”

Navarro is part of Our American Voice, an extracurricular civics program at Komensky. The group, which is made up of nine students, is leading the effort to raise funds to purchase the new playground equipment. Daniel King, a fifth-grade teacher and co-leader of Our American Voice with special education fifth-grade teacher Ryan Kozin, said this was the students’ idea.

Last year, the group surveyed all students and found a lot of them weren’t happy with the playground.

“Many students realized that the kids in the DLP [Developmental Learning Program] couldn’t use the playground because there was no equipment for them,” King said. "They felt the playground wasn’t for everybody, and they wanted to do something about it, which is great."

Students involved with Our American Voice are selling bracelets at lunchtime and basketball games, and they are working with local businesses and organizations to help raise money. They also have a GoFundMe page, which allows anyone to donate online. King said renovating the playground will cost about $50,000.

“We want to put in a ramp for students in wheelchairs and swings for them,” he said. “Also, we want more equipment for our younger students, so it really will be a playground for everyone. The wood chips will be gone, and we’re looking at soft-surface alternatives.”

Dana Scalzitti, a special education teacher in the Developmental Learning Program, said there are times when her students get upset or bored when they’re not able to play on the playground with their friends.

“This is absolutely necessary, and my students are going to be so excited,” she said. “It’s hard to see when we go out there and they’re not able to play on everything they want to. Our purpose in special education is to give every opportunity for our students to access everything.”

Brett Elliott’s 6-year-old daughter, Angelina, will benefit from the updated playground. He said he’s very excited the school is being so proactive about including his daughter, who is in a wheelchair.

“This is something that will directly affect my daughter and her ability to play with her peers at recess,” he said. “She really wants to participate with other kindergartners, she wants to do what they do, but all she can do is sit and watch them. It’s awesome they’re promoting this and recognize there’s a need.”

King said he’s especially impressed with the Our American Voice students because as fifth-graders, they won’t be at the school when the playground renovation is complete.

“I’m really proud of them because they’ll be in middle school by the time the renovation is complete,” he said. “To be that mature, and to see they care and want to make things better for the future, that’s what it’s about. They want to leave things better for the next group of kids.”

Navarro said she’s proud of herself for her efforts to help her fellow students.

“I’m happy because even though I won’t be able to use the playground because I’ll be in middle school, but all the other kids will,” she said.


How to help

Donate to the inclusive playground efforts by visiting

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