A West Valley student is reaching out to the community to help special needs students at her high school.
Lexi Von Hatten is a senior at Mountain Ridge in Glendale and what started as research for a volunteer challenge has inspired her to launch a campaign to help a teacher who isn't even hers.
Von Hatten is part of Educators Rising, a statewide club for students who plan to go to college to become teachers. They were challenged to find a community project where they can volunteer 40 hours and make an impact. Next spring they'll present their projects to a board and the winner will be selected for $2,500 in scholarship money.
Von Hatten decided she wanted to do something to help special needs students. She discovered that her school has a sensory room, a place where kids with a range of disabilities can go when they need to calm down, prevent an outburst and keep them focused on learning.
"We get angry... we're able to let it go. Our special needs students really aren't so they need something to throw down or release their anger," said Von Hatten.
Not every school has a sensory room -- the one at Mountain Ridge isn't given a budget and is rather empty, so any equipment has been donated or the special education teacher has crafted it herself.
Von Hatten wants to change that and fill the room with the proper tools to help those students succeed. She's launched two online fundraisers, on Facebook and GoFundMe, and will buy as many items as she can with the money raised.
While Von Hatten does hope her project is a winner in the scholarship competition, she's hoping other schools and communities will be inspired to fund and create sensory rooms of their own.
"My greater hope is this will cause a ripple effect," said Von Hatten, "so that having a sensory room becomes the norm in every school."