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Ruediger Elementary wins $25K grant from State Farm

Photo by: State Farm Neighborhood Assist
Posted at 10:59 AM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 10:59:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Ruediger Elementary won a $25,000 grant from State Farm to update their Pre-K/ESE playground with a new play structure.

The State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program aims to help 40 causes with a $25,000 grant for each cause. To earn one of the grants, people must vote up to ten times a day to get their cause into the top 40.

An excerpt from the letter submitted to State Farm by Ruediger teacher Caitlyn Whitley is available below:

Ruediger Elementary is a Title 1 school. While other schools in the district can update their playgrounds with money from fundraisers, Title 1 schools struggle in this area.

Playground equipment is a large expense and without fundraising our school, unfortunately, cannot meet this need.

Our early childhood students and ESE students benefit from instruction in social skills and the ability to practice these skills in a safe environment.

Our playground time means more than recess. It is a chance to teach our students how to play and how to interact with each other.

Developmental play is incredibly important for these students. We practice taking turns, sharing, imaginative play and acceptance. With new equipment, we can continue to encourage growth and this will benefit the students for years to come.

At the schools in the district that have a strong PTO and high participation in fundraisers, you can see where that money goes.

Title 1 schools do not have that option.

Our school is funded only by the allotted money from the state and/or district. This means we do not have extra funds to update and fix the pre-K/ESE playground.

Throughout the years we have done small fixes, broken boards, a broken sandbox and wood rot to ensure that the students are safe. We have never been able to update the playground with a new play structure.

Unfortunately, play structures are extremely expensive and as a Title 1 school, that is not in our budget.

With $25,000 we would be able to find a new play structure for the students that can accommodate the age range of students we serve as well as students with disabilities.

Our students would also benefit from a swing that accommodates a wheelchair. This playground serves so many students in the community and we want to be able to meet all their needs.

-Caitlyn Whitley, Ruediger teacher, Glen Howell Distinguished Educator of the Year
Photo by: LCS; Caitlyn Whitley, Ruediger teacher, Glen Howell Distinguished Educator of the Year

Investing in a commercial, updated playground will last for years. Students from the community, with varying exceptionalities and skills will be able to use this playground for years to come. Newer playgrounds can last 10-20 years without being replaced. While the students may only use this playground for a few years of their lives, the skills we will be able to teach will last them a lifetime. They will learn social skills in a safe and fun environment that will benefit them throughout their entire lives.

For more information about the State Farm awards, click here.