ROCK ISLAND — Rock Island High School students in need soon will have access to clothing, hygiene products and other staples through a new Rocky Resource Room that will open in September.
School social worker Amanda Puebla said the Rocky Resource Room, located on the ground floor of the high school, will put resources at the fingertips of students who may struggle with basic needs. The room is initially slated to be open one morning per week for students to stop in.
"Once it starts getting colder, we would also like to be able to have a good selection of coats, hats and gloves down there," she said. "A lot of students walk or take the bus."
District spokeswoman Holly Sparkman said the idea stemmed from a resource closet started last year in an English Learners classroom where students were collecting clothing. She said that led to Ms. Puebla spearheading a fundraising campaign at the end of the last school year.
Ms. Puebla said she and teacher Jessica Matherly, who works with the high school’s English Learners, are working on opening the Rocky Resource Room, with the support of donations from staffers, students and community members. The Rock Island Education Foundation also awarded the project a $1,000 PRIME grant, which Ms. Puebla said stands for Promoting Rock Island/Milan Education.
Ms. Puebla said the hope is that the Resource Room will be a community and school project. She said people have been very generous with donations, and students have gotten involved in sorting items and hanging clothing.
The ultimate goal of the project, Ms. Puebla said, is to meet the needs of Rocky students who may be struggling so that nothing gets in the way of their ability to learn. She said she and Ms. Matherly have students come to them frequently seeking simple things like shampoo, toothpaste or a clean shirt.
"We just don't want that barrier in front of them," Ms. Puebla said. "We want them to be successful at school. If we offer some of the stuff, it's one less thing they have to worry about."
In addition to the one morning per week that the room will be open, Ms. Puebla she said or Ms. Matherly can get supplies from the room to students who need them at any time.
Ms. Puebla said many students face a lot of obstacles. She said there is a lot of emphasis on academics, but if basic needs are not met, students have a very difficult time going to school every day and learning. She said many students come from low-income families or may be homeless.
"Or they are just out on their own already," she said. "They just need some support to meet some of those basic needs."
The Rocky Resource Room also will have a section to support the school’s teen moms. It will offer maternity and baby clothing, diapers, wipes and formula, and other baby gear.
By October, Ms. Puebla said, it is hoped the Rocky Resource Room can also expand to include a school pantry to serve students and their families twice per month.
Ms. Puebla said it is difficult to estimate just how many of the high school students may be in need of food or additional resources, but she does plan to track the number of students served and the type of supplies distributed over the year.
The 2015-2016 Illinois Report Card for the high school identified 62 percent of the 1,833 enrolled students as low-income. That same school year, the district was approved to serve breakfast and lunch to all district students at no cost through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Provision, due to the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced-cost meals. The initial approval lasts four years, at which time the state will re-evaluate the district’s eligibility. The program is also operating in the East Moline and Carbon Cliff-Barstow school districts.
Anyone interested in supporting the Rocky Resource Room may mail checks to the high school in care of Ms. Puebla, 1400 25th Ave., Rock Island. Ms. Puebla also can be reached by calling 309-793-5950, ext. 2032.