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MEd Student Secures Funds For Barrier-Free Playground

As education finance continues to command headlines, Krystal DeJesus, a University of St. Thomas Master in Education graduate student, found the funds to build a $63,000 barrier-free playground for special needs children in Aldine ISD through the Be An Angel Foundation.

A Special Education teacher at Oleson Elementary, DeJesus said the motivation to begin such a large project came initially from UST professor Dr. Jim LeBuffe’s Educational Leadership course where she was required to research and report on a facet of her school’s budget.

DeJesus realized that the playground at Oleson Elementary was so dilapidated and inaccessible that many of the school’s special needs students were spending recess sitting indoors or on a bench unable to play.  The school serves more than 900 children and is located in a low-income area of north Houston with a limited budget. 

“I found that usually the PTA or PTO buys playgrounds and it’s not budgeted,” said DeJesus.  “The one we had was 16 years old and falling apart.  I went around to other schools that had installed playgrounds in the last few years and found that a couple other schools in Aldine got their playgrounds through an organization called Be An Angel.”

Be An Angel, a non-profit organization, strives to improve the quality of life for children with multiple disabilities or profound deafness by providing services to individuals and institutions requiring supplemental funding. 

“They had room in their budget for one more playground to be built,” DeJesus said. “I wrote them a letter describing our situation and our campus funding. It was presented to the Be An Angel board and they accepted it, verified that everything was true and they agreed to build a playground for the school.”

Over the course of the year, the Be An Angel Foundation raised money for a barrier-free playground, which can now accommodate students with medical aid devices such as wheelchairs or walkers.

DeJesus will be graduating from UST in December and said she hopes to work as an administrator for the Aldine ISD.

“For the past six years I have been an in-home trainer for parents of special needs children and worked with life skills students and students with autism,” said DeJesus.  “I hope that in my job as an administrator, I’ll be able to reach out to more of our kids with special needs.”