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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Anthis student Santiago Perez, left, reads to kindergartners Wednesday at Whitney Young Early Childhood Center.

Unsafe outdoor play area updated

– It took two years of hard work and fundraising, but Whitney Young Early Childhood Center now has an outdoor area it can be proud of, Principal Sherry Britt said.

The school celebrated the completion of an outdoor stage, two sets of playground equipment and some landscape beautification during a ceremony Wednesday. She said the feat would never have been possible without the help of the school and community.

Two years ago, Fort Wayne Community Schools told the school its outdated and unsafe playground equipment would have to go. Britt said she and her staff began brainstorming fundraising ideas and other options to replace its old playground.

The idea to enlist the help of Anthis Career Center students came from Darren Hess, director of facilities with the district, Britt said.

Students, who don’t charge for labor, poured the concrete for an outdoor stage and performance area, made improvements to the school’s many picnic tables and moved a water table to a place it could be better used by students. They also made some landscaping changes to spruce up the outdoor area, which also includes a garden.

Teachers helped put together auctions at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art that sold student and parent artwork along with other donated items to raise money for the equipment. The school also applied for and received a $20,000 grant from Anthony Wayne Services.

The outdoor area, two playground areas included, cost a total of $80,000 of which $30,000 the school raised itself, Britt said. The materials used by Anthis students were paid for by the district, and parents and teachers put together one set of playground equipment. The other set, paid for by the grant, was bought especially for the 30 special education students the school serves.

“It was a true community project,” Britt said. “We are very proud.”

Anthis student Heath Baumgarner was recognized during the ceremony for creating a metal structure of Whitney Young’s mascot, “Reggie,” which stands 6 feet tall and weighs about 250 pounds. The structure was placed at the entrance of the school.

Britt said the area and playground equipment will be used throughout the winter season, as students bundle up and head outside.

“This has made our lives wonderful. It’s unbelievable,” she said.