Grant helps Wellington High buy new iPads for special needs program

3:11 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 Local
Wellington High School special needs teacher Barbara Incandela works with special needs student Ethan Pilat as Katie Jacobs Robinson of the Jacobs Family Foundation observes on Jan. 31 in Wellington. The Jacobs Family Foundation recently donated $5,000 to help the school buy new iPads for the special needs students. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)

When it comes to Wellington High School’s special needs program, individualized lessons for students who have difficulty speaking or with fine motor skills are key.

That’s why the program’s teachers and staff say a recent $5,000 grant from the Wellington-based Jacobs Family Foundation to buy iPads for 10 new students is so important.

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Teachers, staff, Palm Beach County School District representatives and members of Wellington’s village council were on hand Wednesday morning to celebrate the grant and watch the students complete activities and take a quiz on their new devices.

The iPads allow students in the same classroom to work on individualized lessons at their own pace, said teacher Barbara Incandela, a 25-year veteran at the school.

When students are finished using their iPads in class, they stow them in iPad carts, where the devices await the next group of eager learners.

RELATED: $34,500 grant brought laptops to Wellington High Fine Arts students

The Jacobs Family Foundation has donated more than $500,000 to Wellington schools and nonprofits over the past few years. The family, led by patriarch Jeremy Jacobs, is a staple in the international equestrian community. Jacobs’ six children have placed a high priority on community engagement, especially school programs, Katie Jacobs Robinson said Wednesday.

“Obviously we’re a fan of children,” Robinson said as she watched Incandela help junior Ethan Pilat navigate a biology assignment on an iPad. “I feel like we’re really making a difference here.”

Classroom paraprofessional Arlene Einhorn is behind the growing iPad collection. In 2015, she applied for the first grant from the foundation and used it to buy 35 iPads. She applied for the second grant after spotting an ad in the pages of the local weekly newspaper.

“The kids can’t speak, but give them a computer and the world opens up for them,” Einhorn said.

The iPads were put to work on the spot.

Wellington Vice Mayor John McGovern helped Mark, a student in Incandela’s class, use his iPad to take photos of the delegation that poured into a classroom Wednesday. The event was “vital,” McGovern said, to demonstrate philanthropy at work in Wellington.

“What’s really special about this donation in particular is to see the children with special needs, to see their faces light up and to see them be inspired,” he said.

Down the hall, students prepared to use their iPads to take a quiz. “All children today love technology,” McGovern said. “It’s something that they understand and relate to in a way we as adults do not and will not.”

“For these kids, having this technology may be even more important because it may be the only way they connect with the world,” said Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, former member of the village’s Education Committee.

Christian, one of Incandela’s students, overheard the many mentions of iPads and turned to one of his peers. “This is the new century,” he said, shrugging. “In the ’90s we used TVs, in the 2000s we used computers. And now we use iPads.”