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Daily News

LONGMEADOW — The Willie Ross School for the Deaf (WRSD) will unveil its new Rigamajig, granted by the Morgan Stanley Foundation and the national nonprofit KABOOM!, at an event this Friday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Wing Hall at the school, located at 32 Norway St., Longmeadow. Students will get to play with the new system at the fun-filled event. Representatives from the Morgan Stanley Foundation and Willie Ross will be in attendance.

An interactive set of wooden planks, wheels, and pulleys, Rigamajig allows children to develop language, communication, and problem-solving skills that are key to cognitive development and STEM learning. WRSD will incorporate the Rigamajig play set into its school programming, providing a unique, year-round play element for kids.

WRSD provides deaf and hard-of-hearing students access to comprehensive, evidence-based education and support services in the classroom and in the greater community. The school works to maximize each individual’s intellectual, social, and emotional growth from the early-childhood level through high school.

Play is essential to the physical, social, and emotional health of every child. However, far too many kids lack access to safe and fun play opportunities. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on kids has created an even more urgent need to ensure that all kids have opportunities to play where they live and learn.

The partnership with KABOOM! is part of the Morgan Stanley Foundation’s commitment to give kids a healthy start to life. Safe places to play are vital to that commitment. Since the beginning of this long-standing, successful partnership in 2011, Morgan Stanley and KABOOM! have built 25 playgrounds and awarded 42 Imagination Playground and Rigamajig grants, serving more than 36,000 children in communities across the U.S.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Willie Ross School for the Deaf (WRSD) announced that Mary Cate Mannion has joined the school’s board of trustees. Mannion works for Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) and is a former news anchor and reporter for Western Mass News.

Mannion said her hard-of-hearing sister is part of the inspiration behind her joining the school’s board of trustees. Her sister underwent surgeries and gained more language access through hearing aids and the use of American Sign Language (ASL).

Mannion said her sister “shares her love of ASL with our family and followed that passion to become an educator at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing on the West Coast. Witnessing her experiences in education shaped my perspective on the importance of providing an opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to learn in a way that is best for them.”

Mannion visited the main and partnership campuses prior to accepting the invitation to join the board. “Recently, I had a chance to visit the WRSD facilities in East Longmeadow and Longmeadow, and the excitement for learning of both educators and students was clear. I am thrilled to support them and the mission of the Willie Ross School for the Deaf as a board member.”

Mannion is a public relations analyst and video producer with eight years of storytelling experience. She previously worked as a news reporter for WMTW-TV in the Portland, Maine area, and prior to that was at Western Mass News. She earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College.

According to Bert Carter, president and CEO of WRSD, “we are blessed to have a committed and inspired group of trustees on our board. Mary Cate’s understanding and commitment for what we do in preparing students for the world offers a valuable new voice in that work.”

HCN News & Notes

LONGMEADOW — Willie Ross School for the Deaf announced the appointment of Joel Skelton to the newly created position of coordinator of Community Engagement at the school.

A native of Dallas, Skelton is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical communication and a master’s degree in communication and media technologies.

In his new position, Skelton will be responsible for creating greater awareness of the school and its brand through various forms of outreach, including a greater presence on social media. He will also handle fundraising and development, grants, and event planning.

Skelton, who has a central auditory processing disorder, was denied access to deaf-education resources when in school. He later received the appropriate deaf services and the use of an interpreter, which helped him to excel academically. That experience helped prepare him to promote the philosophy of Willie Ross School for the Deaf.

“What appealed to me about joining the Willie Ross School is its commitment to its total-communication model of educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students, which emphasizes a range of communication methods that are best suited for each child that might include oral communication and sign language,” Skelton said. “My own story of being denied access to appropriate deaf-education resources has made me aware of the need for schools for the deaf, like Willie Ross, and the importance of having the resources to appropriately meet students’ needs.”

Added President and CEO Bert Carter, “we welcome Joel to our staff in this new position as a way to share the message about Willie Ross and the work we do more broadly through events, social media, and grant requests. Joel’s experience and background make him uniquely qualified to raise our profile and help us engage current and new audiences around the important work we do with students.”