Summers County girl attends school through a robot - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Summers County girl attends school through a robot

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Today thousands of students attended classes at school, but not a Summers County girl.

Ellie Rhodes had leukemia and now has a weakened immune system so she must stay at home.

However, she is still keeping up with her studies thanks to 21st century technology.

Vigo the Robot is making it possible for Ellie Rhodes to attend 4th grade at Hinton Area Elementary School.  She had leukemia and now has a weakened immune system so she has to stay at home.

"I interact with everybody and do the work and not miss out on anything," says Ellie, speaking to us through the robot.

The Summers County School Board got a grant through the Hinton Area Foundation to pay for the robot. The pricetag is $5,700. Since the first day of school Ellie has been in class, dialing in from a computer at her house.

"It's important for her just to know she can get up and do this. She can do the work. She can see her friends. She loves her teacher. It's important for her to have that teacher interaction too," says Paula Rhodes, Ellie's mother.

She says the robot is giving her daughter a normal life.

"We're not thinking about leukemia at that moment. We're not thinking about cancer. We're thinking about school. We're thinking about something that has taken our focus off of what is going on," says Paula Rhodes.

Not only is the robot enabling Ellie to keep up with her schoolwork, it's allowing her to be with her friends in class which is an important part of the educational process.

"If you think about my best had cancer, you might be like crying, but then if you think about it in my way, it's more like lolliop land," says Maggie Stover, a classmate and friend of Ellie.

"It's pretty cool. I get to talk to her.  You never seen nothing like this. This is the first time I've ever seen one," says Nathan Graham, a classmate and friend of Ellie.

In fact, Ellie's teacher, Cathy Shank says her class will go up and hug the robot because they're happy to have Ellie in class.

"It's not a distraction of any kind. Lots of times if I am teaching from my elmo she drives up beside me instead of right here because she can't see the board real clearly. I may hear a little giggle here and there because she is driving up behind me," says Shank.

Shank says the robot is like actually having Ellie in class.

"She hears all the instructions on anything we do. She participates. She read 2 or 3 things out loud this morning. They were taking turns reading," says Shank 

Thanks to Vigo the Robot, Ellie Rhodes is just like any other fourth grader.

"Children thrive on routine. They thrive on social interaction," says Paula Rhodes.

She says her daughter is making such great progress in getting her immune system back to normal that doctors are telling her Ellie may be able to attend the last two months of school in person.

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