NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A group of junior high school students are working on a very special assignment for their classmates in wheelchairs.
The project started as a way to enter a local competition, but has turned into so much more.
The Wheelchair Warriors from Dyker Heights Intermediate School are a group of eighth graders designing and building a special desk for their classmate Maria Pizzo. Her wheelchair can’t fit under a regular desk.
When Maria comes into class her paraprofessional, Peggy Chevalier, needs to move a desk even when it’s in place. Maria’s wheelchair is too wide and high for her to get very close.
Peggy has to get everything for Maria because she can’t reach her bag on the back of her wheelchair – so even if she drops her pencil – Peggy would need to get her another one.
“I feel like she helps me a lot,” Pizzo said.
So in come Maria’s classmates, who needed to come up with a project that solves a problem to compete in the STEAM Fair.
With the help of their Science teacher Cindy Scognamillo, they decided to build a wheelchair accessible desk.
“We wanted to help because we felt bad because she didn’t have that much space for a desk,” Fouad Farran said.
They’ve been working for weeks before and after school on their project and have learned a lot more than just engineering and design.
“I never really thought about what they went through in class and then working on this project helped me realize that life is not as simple as it seems for people with disabilities,” Ruoting Jiang told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
“I thought it was really kind of them and thoughtful,” Pizzo added.
Along with adjustable legs, the desk will also have a cup holder and a hook so Maria can reach her backpack.
The competition will be in two weeks at a local middle school – and no matter how they do – they’ve already won when it comes to compassion and dedication.