Rogers High science teacher improves trail to school for paralyzed gymnast

Safety: Jacoby Miles now has a dedicated path on which she can travel to school

of the HeraldFebruary 5, 2014 

Jacoby Miles, a Rogers High School sophomore who was paralyzed two years ago during a gymnastics practice, will no longer have to navigate muddy grass through Heritage Park in her motorized wheelchair.

Miles tried out the improved cement path last week along the 100-foot trail between her home and a sidewalk that leads to the school. The design was completed by Rogers High science teacher Steve Bright, who wanted to help Miles get to school in a safer fashion.

A routine class outing to Heritage Park late last year brought the problem to Bright’s attention.

“We looked over and saw the ruts from the wheelchair in the grass, and a student told me that (Miles) was coming over the sod and the grass,” Bright said. “I thought maybe we could put in some kind of pavers.”

Bright talked to representatives from Pierce County Parks, which oversees Heritage Park and the recreation center that sits behind Rogers High School. They agreed to help.

County parks crews delivered soil and gravel from Randall’s Top Soil. Mutual Materials gave an affordable quote on the purchase of the cement pavers, Bright said. He used profits from the sales of plants that were raised in the school greenhouse to pay for the path.

Ken Zentz, an AP government and politics teacher, and Steve Lynch, a special education resource teacher, provided much of the physical labor. They installed the pavers on Jan. 2. A handful of students also pitched in.

During the course of several weeks, students and staff members worked for a couple hours after school each day. They finished it up on Jan. 15.

Miles and her parents, Gretchen and Jason, met Bright and the other volunteers on Jan. 28. Gretchen said the pavers give the trail a smoother service.

“What was there before was unlevel grass, and as it got colder and wetter, there was a potential for Jacoby to tip over in her wheelchair,” Gretchen said.

Miles’ parents gave thank-you cards that included gift cards to area restaurants.

“It was so rewarding to see their faces and actually put names to the faces, and to realize that these people went out of their way to spend countless hours to make your daughter’s life easier,” Gretchen said. “Jacoby is so appreciative. She is very service-oriented. Her love language is service, so for them to put down the trail, it spoke right to her heart. She was overwhelmed by their sacrifice to make that trail.”

Before last week, Bright said he hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Miles.

“It was something that needed to be done,” he said of the trail. “I thought, ‘We could do this. There is a need here, and I think that we have enough people.’ ”

Gretchen said her daughter has steadily improved since her injury in November 2012.

“We see improvements all the time,” she said. “Her flexibility has improved, her core has improved, her ability to move from side to side has improved. She is constantly making improvements.”

Friends, family members and others the family had never met before recently gave the Miles’ home a makeover to help Jacoby’s ability to be more mobile.

“She is included in all activities now,” Gretchen said.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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