Room filled with free hygiene products, clothes and food for High School students

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Rock Island, IL (KWQC) - In Rock Island, a social worker and teacher decided to do something about the number of students they saw who didn't have access to deodorant, food or clothes. It's called the Rocky Resource Room. In it students are able to pick out hygiene products, food items, clothes and whatever they may need with privacy. It's an effort that was launched by a social worker and teacher at Rock Island High School and one they hope to replicate in every school in the district.
It's a need that fills a national demand. One in five children in the United States lives below the poverty line, which is an income of around $25,000 for a family of four. Not being able to afford basic hygiene products or more than one shirt can deter a student from attending class, or impact their self-confidence.
"Jessica Matherly, who's a teacher in the building had a little closet in her classroom with clothing and shoes in it and I had hygiene products in my office that I was giving out to students like shampoo and toothpaste and things like that. So we decided to combine forces and have a large room that had all the things in it to offer," says Rock Island High school social worker Amanda Puebla.
The products in the room are provided through donations and grants.
"I think you take for granted what the kids actually have or what they need," says Puebla.
"Shoes are a big demand for kids because a lot of them walk or they need to take the bus. Our long term biggest need is deodorant for both boys and girls as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste and just soap and shampoo and conditioner so that they can have what they need at home and have what they need to come to school and feel comfortable," she added.
Heidi Steger is a teacher's aide at the high school and says providing the basics for students allows them to focus on graduating. "They're free to be a student and worry about things that you should have to worry about when you're in high school and not food or clothing."
Caitlin Clough is a Special Educator at Rock Island high school. She also volunteers in the Rocky resource room and says she's seen how the room has impacted students' demeanor. "It's supposed to really make you feel good about yourself to feel confident," says Clough.
Amanda says when she and Jessica first received approval for the room in May 2017, some students were initially apprehensive to stop by.
Some of them "thought that we were giving them our own personal items, and its like no I'm not going to take your coat and we said no honey it's not my coat, let's just go see the room," says Puebla.
But once the high-schoolers actually went into the rooms she says they realized it was private, organized and they could explore on their own they became more comfortable. The Rocky Room also provides household basics for students living on their own.
"We have a group of students that are over 18 who for various reasons had to live on their own. We helped them find apartments and then with grant money we helped them find basics for the house like toasters, knives," says Puebla.
And having the basic necessities does create a ripple effect.
"I see more confidence they definitely have better attendance because they don't have to worry about having something clean to come to school in. They get a sense of pride when they get to help out in the room," says Steger. Puebla says some of the students are now launching projects to help give back to the community.
Amanda says she and Jessica created this room because they don't want simple obstacles to be a barrier for success.