What began two years ago as a dream has now become a reality as a special-needs classroom at Topeka High School has undergone the finishing touches on an extreme makeover. THS senior Jack Hishmeh took the initiative on a project to update and improve the school’s special education classroom in 2011 after he befriended some special-need students.
More than $20,000 was donated, and the room today sports new laminate flooring, carpeting, wooden window blinds, new wooden cabinets, an oven, cook-top, refrigerator and dishwasher. The public was invited in to see the renovated classroom at an open house on October 12th. Many contributors, community members and staff dropped in to celebrate the successful conclusion of Jack's project.
Also through Jack's efforts, a Special Opps group was formed through which students would spend their lunch periods in the special-needs room, or would take the special-needs students to the cafeteria where they could eat lunch with the rest of the student body.
Today, Jack takes great satisfaction in knowing the project was completed before his graduation. He said he couldn’t have accomplished the project without the assistance of scores of other students, teachers, parents and people from the community, including businesses that generously donated to the project. He and his family also gave special thanks to special education teacher Claudia Shover-Daily, principal Dr. Linda Wiley, Pamela Johnson- Betts, and the Topeka Public Schools Foundation for their support and guidance throughout the project's progress.
“There’s a warm feeling when you enter the room,” Jack said. “We were shooting for a more homey feel, and I think that’s what we got.”
Though Jack is in his final year at Topeka High, the Special Opps group is likely to continue after he is gone, as most of the 40 students involved are sophomores and juniors.