When asked what 16-year-old Jacob Slattery liked about his remodeled house, the excited teen couldn’t narrow it down.
“Everything,” he said.
The Shandon resident was the recipient in this year’s Poly House project, a spring quarter endeavor by a Cal Poly industrial and manufacturing engineering class that transforms a house for locals in need.
Thirty-eight students in the graduate level course spent six weeks planning and two weekends constructing Slattery’s new digs, which desperately needed a remodel to accommodate his wheelchair.
Slattery has spina bifida, a birth defect in the backbone. He’s used a wheelchair since he was 2 years old. As a result, he said he’s almost always had to ask for help.
“Everything was higher than I could reach,” Slattery said. “The main thing I like (now) is being able to move around the house. I’m really excited about it.”
That means no more bumping into walls and doors in the house he shares with mom Stacie Slattery, stepfather Eddie Haworth and little sister Sophia Haworth.
Projects keep going
Cal Poly professor Roya Javadpour started the project eight years ago with students. Through the dedicated help of new generations of students and donations from the community and local businesses, the project lives on each year. The students raised approximately $120,000 in supplies and donations for Slattery’s house. Additional help, such as plumbing and roofing, came from volunteer contractors.
“We start from zero,” said grad student Kelly Yip, 23. “If the local community doesn’t help out, we couldn’t have made this possible for Jacob.”
The efforts helped transform the Shandon home from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, with a new bedroom for Slattery built as an addition to the house.
Counters, sinks and electrical outlets were brought down to wheelchair level. Doors were expanded. Carpet floors were resurfaced with tile and laminate for easy mobility. Concrete was added around the house so Slattery could go outside. His bathroom is new. The stovetop is even wheelchair accessible, and Slattery is excited to learn how to cook. “When he’s older, he doesn’t have to rely on anyone,” Javadpour said, noting that safety, comfort and independence were the project’s key goals.
“This is Jacob’s house now,” Haworth said. “Even if we ever move, this place is his.”
For grad student Weston Burke, the all-consuming project meant students had to put all else aside until the work was finished. But it was worth it, he said.
“I think sometimes it can be difficult to find really hands-on experiences in school,” the 22-year-old said.
“And this is about as hands-on as it can possibly get.”