“Dream Team” creates 3D hand

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, December 16, 2020


The “Dream Team,” NiKujha Smith, Ka’Jarvis Daniel and Da’Shanti Woodson, made a prosthetic hand for 9-year-old Libby  Phagan from Wilcox County.

By Neil McGahee

Managing Editor

Three Crisp County high school students used a 3D photo printer to fabricate a prosthetic hand for a young girl that was born without a hand.

“I was given the task of teaching anatomy this year,” said Jessica Young.” I wanted to give them a hands on experience.”

She learned about a program called “E-nable the Future”, a computer program that teaches high school students to print prosthetic hands for kids and adults all over the world.

But there was one problem no 3-D printer or so she thought.

“I didn’t know the school even had a 3-D printer,” Young said. “Then I found out there was one stored in a clos

et. No one knew how to use it, so they just packed it away.”

Three students, Da’Shanti Woodson, Ka’Jarvis Daniel and NiKujha Smith showed particular interest, so armed with one E-Nable future prosthetic kit, they began printing and assembling a full prosthetic hand.

Lilly Phagan, 8 of Wilcox County, was born with Poland Syndrome, a disorder caused when one is born with missing or underdeveloped muscles on one side of the body, resulting in abnormalities that may affect the chest, shoulder, arm and hand.

Young contacted Lilly’s parents to see if they would be interested in getting a prosthetic hand printed for her. They agreed and a date was set for Lilly to meet the students and get her hand measured.

When Lilly and her family came back to the school for Lilly to try on the prototype for her hand. Mrs. Young and her students were anxious. What if the hand didn’t fit?

It was a perfect fit!

“The joy on Lilly’s face was infectious,” Young said. “She immediately began squeezing her hand, picking up water bottles, scratching her head and shaking her dad’s hand. To watch her life be changed in that instant was such a blessing.”

The students worked out a few kinks before printing Lilly’s final hand, which she requested be blue and gold the colors of the Wilcox county sports teams and she got to keep the prototype.

It was a moment the students said they would never forget.

“I have never gotten to be a part of something so awesome,” Nikujha Smith said as tears welled up in her eyes. “This feels so good. I am holding back tears.”

Da’Shanti Woodson said, “It meant so much to me that me and my friends put a smile on someone’s face. Thank God for using my friends and I to help others.”

“It was an amazing experience and opportunity to help Lilly,” said Ka’Jarvis Daniel. “Christmas came early for her this year.”

For Jessica Young it was the culmination of a dream and the beginning of another.

“To see a goal I set three years ago finally come true was surreal,” she said. “ Knowing that I had the honor of teaching three students who were so willing to work and problem solve and never give up while learning how to do this was such a special experience. Their hearts are so big! To watch Lilly put that hand on and pick up a bottle of water is a feeling I can’t describe. Getting to witness something they built change this little girl’s life is just the epitome of my career. I cannot wait to see where we can take this program and how many lives we can change.”

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Beal-Shephard tries to weather the storm over City HallBy Neil B. McGahee Managing Editor Cordele City Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard was elected in 2001 to represent the people of Ward One. By all accounts, she has done a very good job of relating to the citizens living in her ward. Recently, however, a dark cloud has settled over City Hall. From the first day of his term, newly-elected commission chairman Joshua Antwan Deriso began taking verbal snipes on social media at some of the other commissioners. Shephard says she just ignored it at first but on April 9, Deriso posted on Facebook “…It was much anticipated for Comm. Rainey to be against change. Comission (sp) Shephard fights against me the hardest…does not know much about government at all…She needs to be voted out next year 2023.” A few days later, he posted live saying …“I am totally over the games, the political stuff…a lot of people want to make what I said about Commissioner Shephard something about disagreement with Commissioner Shephard. It was her ignorance and short-sightedness…not able to understand what we can do as a government. “When there were people in charge that didn’t look like us…white people… she didn’t question anything. Since I became chairman, she has blocked everything…you don’t know what you are doing; you don’t know what you are talking about.” Shephard winces as she listens to Deriso. “I don’t do drama and I don’t do pettiness,” she said. “I refute everything he has said about me. I’m not angry with Josh; I am somewhat disturbed that he has targeted me, a citizen of Cordele; a black female…he accused me of loving white folks. Well I do love white folks, and brown folks and black folks — Haitian, Jamaican, Indian, Cuban, Mexican — I have no discrimination to anyone. My job is to facilitate for people in this ward and when I vote, I vote my conviction.” Shephard said she doesn’t know why Deriso has such hard feelings against her. “It’s so sad, I have to say that I never saw it coming,” she said. ”But I have to voice my opinion.” But one sad thing has evolved from this. “This is the first time I have been discriminated against by a fellow commissioner,” she said. “I used to invite people to my home if they had a problem. But I had to stop that. If you want to meet with me, we will have to go to a public area or to my office at city hall. I am going to keep my distance for the simple reason that I don’t want to endanger myself.