Camille Ponce said poverty was part of her childhood, so she can relate to students at Eagle Ridge School in Carbon Cliff.
About 94 percent of the school's students come from low-income families and qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, principal Tim Green said. The school was featured in a segment of a recent PBS documentary on child poverty.
So when one of the students mentioned there weren't enough books in the school library, Ms. Ponce decided to raise money for more books."I really wanted to help them because I kind of understand where they are coming from."
Ms. Ponce, 25, who moved to Chicago from the Phillipines when she was 9, is working on a master's degree in speech-language pathology at St. Ambrose University, and working with Eagle Ridge students to gain experience.
She applied for, and received, a $1,000 grant from the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, and held several fundraisers. With the help of the area parent teacher association and others, another $1,000 was raised.
Mr. Green said$1,500 will go towards books, and the remaining $500 will be used to start an e-book library students can access through school-issued iPads, bought with a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education.
Ms. Ponce presented the money to the school during a Thursday Family Reading Night.
Community members helping her decided to add a meal to the reading night in hopes of drawing more people and encouraging parents to help their children with reading at home.
The Silvis Library set up an information booth about its resources and United Way donated 150 books as part of itsPohlmann Program for Young Readers and Imagination Library program.
The Pohlmann program is designed to get books to students who receive free or reduced lunch and the Imagination Library program provides free books to registered children until they are 5 years old, spokeswoman Marci Zogg said.
"It's all part of our work to change lives and create a stronger community," she said.
Mr. Green said the school also draws on the resources of other libraries to meet student needs, and the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education has been helping.
Ms. Ponce said organizing the effort showed her how much a community can help to ease the affect low income has on the school.
"It really makes me feel like a difference can be made for kids."