Student Ambassador Vivienne Schoger addresses Summit Academy Community School – Parma’s “Top 20” playground advocates at the recent celebratory event. She is joined by Principal Noriliz Santiago and Assistant Principal Alexandra Norris

“I think we should get a slide for the playground … a slide is fun,” wrote Summit Academy Community School  – Parma student Vivienne Schoger as part of a persuasive letter-writing assignment.

A March 25 event to announce fundraising successes made thus far toward building a new playground at Summit Academy Community School – Parma drew a full house of supporters.
Summit Academy Educational Foundation Executive Director Leo Hyland addresses proponents of a new Summit Academy Community School – Parma playground announcing that $31,500 has been raised toward the project.

The second grader’s narrative conveys a viewpoint shared by many of her fellow school community members. Since last summer, Principal Noriliz Santiago has championed a robust campaign to replace the school’s old playground with a new one, slide included. Santiago, her school staff and families, and Summit Educational Foundation Executive Director Leo Hyland are seeing that vision come into focus after raising $31,500 in donations for a purposeful playground conducive to enriching friendships, fun, physical fitness and learning.

Fourth grader Valentina, her mother, Mayra Redonda (right) and grandmother, Irma Garay (left) prepared a tray filled with sandwiches de mezcla for the playground event.

The playground’s key advocates, including family, staff and community members, gathered for a March 25 celebration marked by balloons, banners, baked goods and even pimento cheese sandwiches de mezcla, courtesy of fourth grader Valentina, her mother, Mayra Redonda, and grandmother, Irma Garay. They are among the “Top 20” proponents who joined to hear the news that the playground campaign far surpassed its halfway point. With a goal of raising $50,000, the school could see a new playground on its grounds by the start of next school year, says Assistant Principal Alexandra Morris.

Summit Academy Community School – Parma families, staff and friends gather to celebrate the fundraising successes achieved toward bringing a new playground to the school. Photo credit: Mayra Redonda.

“I really want the kids to come back to school to this playground,” Morris says, noting the tireless efforts of Principal Santiago to achieve that goal. “She does what she says. I have been so happy to work under her leadership and mentorship.”

According to Santiago, the strong commitment by her school community to introduce a new playground became evident from the get-go, as they hosted fundraiser after fundraiser, from chocolate sales to popcorn sales. Individual donations continue to pour in, and the campaign’s momentum accelerated with a collective desire, Santiago says, to build – from the ground up — Summit Academy’s mission of “designing, developing and delivering educational opportunities in a therapeutic environment so everyone can learn.”

(l-r)Summit Educational Foundation Executive Director Leo Hyland, Summit Academy Community School Principal Noriliz Santiago and Summit Academy – Parma Assistant Principal Alexandra Morris.

“The playground will have a positive impact on academic, social and emotional learning for our students,” says Santiago. “It has definitely been at the top of my list. It has been a very humbling and amazing experience, a real team effort.”

Summit Academy Community School – Parma student ambassador Vivienne Schoger with her family.

For school staff, the promise of a new playground is as exciting as it is for the children they teach.

“We’ve got to bring energy, make it fun, bring a little craziness and a lot of happiness,” says Wanda Ford, the school’s beloved physical education teacher. “I’ll probably be one of the biggest kids on the playground with the kids.”

Motion-driven swing steps, a firepole, two slides and other features in sync with repetitive-motion activities were selected with autistic students in mind, explains Santiago, who will be stepping away from her position next month for a family relocation. Morris will step in as the school’s interim principal.

Event A-lister Vivienne sits for an interview to discuss why she believes a slide would made a nice addition to her school.

Santiago and her school team have raised about $6,500 so far and Hyland secured a $25,000 donation from a local family foundation.

At the event, Hyland extended gratitude to the crowd, describing an air of warmth, joy and positive energy among the audience, including bright-eyed Vivienne, named the playground project’s student ambassador. She and her schoolmates, Hyland says, “deserve a safe place to play, be outside and make friends.”