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NSEEP Students Enjoying new Opportunities to Learn through Play on School’s new Inclusive Playground

Receipt of $50,000 in Grants from CNY Community Foundation and Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation Helped Push Project Forward.

Students in the North Syracuse Early Education Program (NSEEP) have been spending time this fall enjoying some new learning opportunities available through their school’s new inclusive and accessible playground. After years of planning and fundraising, the playground is now a reality thanks to the support of the community and the generosity of some local grantors.

This past spring, the NSEEP, a program serving disabled and non-disabled preschool children alike, received two generous grants toward the construction of the new playground. Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation’s Martha Fund, and a $20,000 award from the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, generous support from the NSCSD and donations from the community, the school’s playground became a reality over the summer.   Dawn Hussein, principal at NSEEP, was also extremely supportive and allocated some monies from Al Stirpe to fund the project as well.

Cheri Rotelli, a physical therapist at NSEEP and playground project coordinator, and all the staff at NSEEP are excited to see the students now reaping the benefits of the program’s project. They believe that “Playgrounds are such important keys to learning for all kids but with a large percentage of our students having a wide variety of developmental disabilities, accessibility and inclusion are critical.”

The school’s new playground features wide wheelchair-accessible ramps, a poured smooth rubber surface throughout and a variety of play fixtures for kids of all abilities. Textured play boards provide tactile
stimulation and a communication board with pictures allows nonverbal students to communicate their needs. There are also rocking, swinging, climbing, spinning and balancing opportunities.

Rotelli had advocated for the project for years, knowing that the more than $300,000 price tag would require research, time and advocacy, but that it was worth it for the student and the staff. “When playgrounds are inaccessible to disabled children, it puts a bruise on their social development. All children should have the same opportunities,” she said. “This inclusive playground ensures that our disabled students in fact do have more equal opportunities to experience growth through play.”

The school hopes to be able to thank the community and its supporters by hosting a ribbon cutting for the playground but has not been able to plan an event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Until such an event can be planned, the grateful staff of the NSEEP wants to show the community their appreciation.

Rotelli said, “Our students may not understand how and why this playground is an important step in their educational journey, but they are certainly having fun taking whatever steps they now can because it exists! On behalf of everyone behind this project, I want to thank our supporters for the opportunities that our youngest students now have!”