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South Whidbey first- and second-graders garner $2000 for new swings

By BEN WATANABE
South Whidbey Record Langley, Clinton, sports, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
October 31, 2012 · Updated 2:01 PM
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Students from Laura Anthony’s first- and second-grade class clamor for a check from the South End’s Rotary club, Whidbey Westside. The students requested and received $2,000 to purchase and install a new swing set at South Whidbey Elementary School. / Photo courtesy of Northwest Public Relations

The power of the people was a well-learned lesson at South Whidbey Elementary School.

Students in Laura Anthony’s first- and second-grade class wanted a new swing set for their school. And now, thanks to some intrepid students and an election-esque exercise, more of South Whidbey’s kindergarten through fifth-grade students can go higher.

“For me, watching it all happen, is like watching someone give someone a Christmas present,” said Katie Grindon, who is a Rotarian and has a student in Anthony’s class. “These kids are just thrilled.”

“This little group of children is making this huge difference.”

At a recent Whidbey Westside Rotary meeting, the club gave Anthony a check for $2,000 to purchase the new swing set. Ordered on Oct. 18, the anticipated arrival of the new swings culminated a year of preparation.

Last school year, students in Anthony’s class considered how they could improve their school. What started as a lesson about Martin Luther King Jr. turned into a civic service project as Anthony read students’ responses to a question about how they could help their classmates. Anthony noticed the theme of a new swing set, and the class chose to make it a reality for the student body of 500. Then those students took to the streets and their car seats.

“She is a phenomenal teacher and allows the kids to grow, to be who they are,” Grindon said of Anthony. “They really have to think.”

Students gathered more than 540 signatures for their petition, which landed them at a Rotary meeting. Anthony and eight students presented the idea to the club, which was accepted by the Rotarians, including Grindon, George Henny and Rick Brown.

“This is, for me, about the kids having a dream, learning this process of taking something that they dreamed up and turning it into this amazing reality,” Grindon said.

Grindon was the parent leader for the project. Her role ideally worked, as she joined Rotary this summer, just in time to hear the group wanted to be part of more projects.

“I can’t wait for it to be put up and say to them, ‘Do you guys realize you made this happen?’” she said.

The good deed has spread. Students in the Interact Club at South Whidbey High School will host a walk-a-thon to raise more funds for the swing set’s installation, estimated to cost between $4,000 and $5,000. The club will have its Umbrella Walk from 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 14. The swing set was recently delivered to the South Whidbey School District and is awaiting the final funds for installation, which includes excavation, new playground bark and cement. By late November or early December, the swing set will be installed.

The class is waiting for a building permit. Once that is approved, the process of anchoring and installing the swing set will begin with excavation.

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