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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis builds a playground from the ground up

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Featured, News

On Tuesday, Brandeis students worked alongside the City of Waltham, Waltham Housing Authority, and Bentley University to construct a playground at Prospect Hill Terrace, a low-income housing development run by single mothers that is home to over 144 low-income families and almost 200 children.

Due to the current age and deteriorating state of the current playground at Prospect Hill, an organization called KaBOOM! granted $85,000 to a proposal from a faculty member at Bentley to build a new playground and community center at Prospect Hill. United Health Care and New England Patriots Charitable Foundation also acted as funding sponsors of the project. The new playground consists of a slide, four swings, drums, monkey bars, sliding bars, a tree-house area, climbing wall, picnic tables, a performance stage and more.

According to Lucas Malo, Brandeis Director of Community Service, students at Brandeis have been providing their service to this project wholeheartedly. “Brandeis students have been involved from the very beginning,” Malo said. “They’ve been fundraising, raising community awareness, going door to door to connect with local residents, assisting the youth at designing their playgrounds and both preparing and building the playground.”

On the build day, over 200 volunteers were divided into different teams led by captains from Bentley, Brandeis, United Health Care, and the Waltham Community, who were given short training sessions. Along with registration and food management, the teams worked on various tasks. Estie Martin ’14 was the captain of the team that worked on murals. “There were lots of different teams, some that worked on projects for the actual playground and some that did side projects, like assembling picnic tables, putting together a stage, painting a mural and making a garden,” Martin said.

Gwen Teutsch ’14, another Brandeis student who participated in the project, added that besides the dedication and organization of the volunteers, KaBOOM! played a large role in the success of the project. “KaBOOM! is the driving force behind this project,” she said. “They had all the building materials and instructions ready for the volunteers when we arrived.”

Although the build day was successful, one issue that those involved in the project ran into was volunteer commitment. Many volunteers who signed up to help never showed up. While this was very frustrating to those who did participate, Martin explained how they didn’t let this issue hinder them. “Everyone picked up the slack and we got everything done that we had set out to do,” she said.

In fact, all those that participated agreed that the day was an overall success and that the high energy from the volunteers made the day worth all of the hard work. Both Martin and Teutsch agreed that their favorite part of the day was when the kids from the Prospect Hill community came home from school and saw the playground for the first time. Teutsch recalled her favorite memory. “One [kid] said to me, ‘This is my favorite day because it is my birthday. I’m 11 years old now, and we are getting a playground today!’ It was wonderful.”

This project was particularly special to the Brandeis students involved for a variety of reasons. Many students have been involved in the Prospect Hill community itself for some time, as they helped design the playground and donated food to the build day. “They were so excited about it every step of the way and it wouldn’t have been as successful if we just came in and forced the project upon them,” said Martin, of the community reaction to the project.

Malo also noted how much this project allowed the students involved to grow and learn how to work with people from different communities. “It’s a rewarding experience to see the city and the community, including students from both institutions, working together,” he said. “This project required lots of work, energy and commitment and shows students that with strong leadership and a passion to partner with the community that you can see tangible impacts.”

Brandeis’ involvement in the Prospect Hill community, however, will not stop now that the playground is complete. The Waltham Group hosts a program called Kids Club, which serves the kids at Prospect Hill by providing them with fun activities on campus. This year, however, they are adding a tutoring program, which will provide academic aid, resource availability, and adult literacy programs. Teutsch said of this project and Brandeis’ involvement in aiding the Prospect Hill community, “Brandeis student leaders will kick-start this program into action and continue to build community outside of the boundaries of our campus, and into the Waltham community.”