With his head down and a power drill in hand, Chaparral High School senior Ryan Taylor spent two months in his parents’ garage building a portable wheelchair ramp for the school.
The Eagle Scout project will not only help him finally attain the revered Eagle rank, but – and more importantly to Ryan – will also help his fellow students more easily travel from the gym to the cafeteria at the Scottsdale high school.
“I wanted to do something that would help the special needs community at Chaparral,” said Ryan, 17, who’s not only student government president but also a longtime volunteer with the Miracle League of Arizona.
Besides belonging to the Miracle League, which provides opportunities for children with disabilities play baseball, Ryan also is involved with the Best Buddies program for special needs students at Chaparral.
“And because I was a member of Best Buddies, I saw that there were still areas that could be improved to better include them and have better quality and inclusion at Chaparral,” Ryan explained.
Two steps separate the cafeteria and the gym.
“I noticed a lot of the students [who use a wheelchair] after eating lunch or whether they were just trying to go from classroom to classroom, they’d have to go all the way outside the cafeteria, around the full building, outside and to different doors,” Ryan explained. “It’s a much longer, harder process.”
So, Ryan went to work.
After former Scoutmaster Patrick Iannone and Chaparral Principal Todd Dreifort signed off on his project in May, Ryan researched how to build a ramp on Google.
“There was a lot of extensive research,” Ryan said. “It was a whole new process for me.”
After weeks of planning and design work, Ryan – with the help of his parents – purchased the $645 worth of materials, including red oak and pine wood.
“This was exhaustive internet research, ordering online, waiting a month for it to come in,” said Ryan’s mom, Kate Taylor.
Starting in August, Ryan spent two months building the ramp in his parents’ garage and finally installed it over fall break.
“It’s pretty awesome!” said Dennis Roehler, Scottsdale Unified facilities director, during a recent Governing Board meeting.
He said the district still had some work to do “to ensure the ramp is up-to-code and structurally sound, but as facilities director for all SUSD schools and buildings, it has been a pleasure to coordinate with Ryan on his project and see first-hand how this ‘project of the heart,’ not to mention considerable STEM and construction skills, has come together for the betterment of Chaparral students and the school as a whole,” Roehler said.
Ryan, a Boy Scout since he was in first grade at Cochise Elementary who most recently served as Senior Patrol Leader of Troop No. 911, was met with a couple challenges while completing his project.
Due to the pandemic, Ryan’s fellow Scouts were unable to physically help him build it.
“Normally with an Eagle project, you have your whole troop come out, and you’ll all work on that,” Ryan explained.
“He’s probably helped a dozen other Scouts on their Eagle projects,” his mother added. “Whether it’s painting a curb or clearing a trail, he’s showed up for a lot of other Eagles.”
“But with the coronavirus being especially bad in our zip code, it wasn’t really possible to have other people over in a tight garage working on something like that together,” Ryan continued. “So, I completed the project entirely by myself.”
The Taylors also paid for the materials out-of-pocket, which isn’t the norm. Typically, the Scouts will host fundraisers to help cover the costs of their projects.
But Ryan and Kate are proud of the fact that the project didn’t cost the school a dime.
“It’s done, it looks fantastic, and I know it’ll get some great use at Chaparral,” Ryan said. “Dreifort loved it, and I was just really happy to see that the school was happy with it and I was very happy with how the project turned out.”
Not all of the students have seen, let alone used, the newly installed ramp.
Chaparral is a hybrid high school with both in-person and virtual learning and students who physically attend classes don’t use the cafeteria.
“We’re on a schedule where we don’t eat lunch, so we’re not in the cafeteria. We get out of school at 11:50 [a.m.] every day,” Ryan said.
“I’m sure it’ll be more rewarding when I get to see someone use it and they start having more classes or serve lunch in the cafeteria,” he continued.
In the meantime, Ryan will present his Eagle Scout project to the board of review and, hopefully, earn the rank of Eagle early next year.
“I just hope that others can see this ramp as a key example of how they can just play such a direct and important role in their school,” Ryan said.
“I just hope that other students can learn that their time, their effort, it can go a long way, especially with their school in their community. They can have a bigger impact than they think.”