Indiana State University Newsroom

Students learn by building access ramp for local Red Cross

May 30, 2012

When Indiana State University sophomore Rochelle Skaggs learned the Wabash Valley Red Cross chapter needed volunteers to build a wheelchair ramp, she quickly volunteered.

Though the Red Cross encountered difficulty finding help for the project before approaching ISU, the Sycamore didn't hesitate to work on the effort.

"I'm physically handicapped," said Skaggs, who walks through the use of prosthetic legs. "Being able to be a part of this and help other people, that's why I wanted to be involved, to give back that way."

Skaggs was part of a group of students from the College of Technology at ISU who built an access ramp for the Red Cross building in Terre Haute. The group, which included students from various disciplines in the built environment department, volunteered to build the ramp this semester to learn more about concepts that are utilized in construction and engineering.

"It's giving us the hands-on experience," said Skaggs, a construction management major from Center Point.

Project volunteers from different majors contributed in different ways on the project, said junior Brandon Martin, a construction management major from Whiteland. Martin led the planning for the project, though students majoring in safety management and interior design also participated in organizing the effort, since they could bring different perspectives and knowledge from different disciplines to complement each other.

"I thought it sounded like a fun project," Martin said. "I've never been in charge of anything like this before. I thought it'd be good experience."

Though students in the built environment typically learn more about aspects related to project management, they were on-site, working directly on all areas of the project, from planning to execution. Everybody has an equal stake in the work, Martin said.

The Wabash Valley Red Cross approached many different organizations about helping to build the access ramp, but had little luck before the ISU students volunteered to take it on, said Carol Stevens, executive director of the Wabash Valley chapter.

"A lot of the work we do is off-site, but we do training here at this facility, and we want to make sure that we are accessible and open to everyone who needs our services, particularly the training services we offer," she said. "We are a humanitarian organization, so it's part of our commitment to serving everybody in the community."

The students worked on the project, and they were able to get some supplies donated, Martin said, so that ultimately the ramp did not cost anything to the Red Cross.

The nonprofit was striving for a cost-effective way to build the ramp, which "is always important to us because we want to put as much of our donated dollars back into services as possible," Stevens said.

"We are here to help, so that's how we want to spend our donated dollars, providing services," she said.

The partnership is more significant for Stevens. For the project, the Red Cross was able to partner with her alma mater; she double majored in sociology and social studies education at ISU. The spouse of Stephanie Land, the emergency services director for the Red Cross, teaches at ISU and helped open discussions for the project.

"Students come here for other kinds of volunteer experiences," Stevens said. "We've had interns from a variety of different departments at ISU, so we're always happy to collaborate and give students an opportunity to have a real-world experience."

Photo: (Submitted photo)An Indiana State University student works at the site the access ramp for the Wabash Valley Red Cross chapter. Students from the built environment department in the College of Technology built the ramp for the nonprofit.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Indiana State University students do work for the access ramp that they built at the Wabash Valley Red Cross chapter in Terre Haute.

Photo: (Submitted photo)An Indiana State University student working on the access ramp project that students created for the Wabash Valley Red Cross chapter in Terre Haute.

Contact: Robert English, associate dean and professor, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-3881 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or