WEST ORANGE, NJ — Ailing Mt. Pleasant kindergarten student Henry Chang is now able to attend school while undergoing medical treatment, thanks to VGo, a device controlled remotely by the user that allows them to interact in another location. It is the first robot of its type to make an appearance in a West Orange school.
Kindergarten students gathered in teacher Ali Fazzio’s classroom on Sept. 21 to hear about the VGo and childhood cancer from educational liaison Joann Spera and child life specialist Kelly Blanchette of the Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center. Henry is currently battling cancer and receiving treatment at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The Goryeb Children’s Hospital, which first treated Henry, secured the VGo with help from the Valerie Fund for his use while undergoing treatment. Once she described how it worked, Spera turned on the VGo and Henry appeared on the screen to the delight of his fellow kindergarten students, who began waving and calling his name. Henry and his dad showed students how they could control the robot from Henry’s laptop, and it moved around the classroom easily.
The interactive device provides mobility around the school and classroom area, allowing Henry to not only learn but have a social experience.
“Utilizing a robot like VGo allows sick children like Henry, who cannot attend school, to continue to participate virtually, allowing them to continue to grow academically as well as socially,” Mt. Pleasant Principal Julie DiGiacomo said in a press release. “This technology transforms the way that we view education.”
Following the presentation, students exited the classroom, waving goodbye to Henry and sending words of encouragement.
Henry has been able to attend a few days of class at Mt. Pleasant as well as utilize VGo.
“Henry loves the VGo because he can communicate with his classmates and teacher and still feel connected when he can’t be there,” his mom, Heather Young, said in the release.