Two 8th graders worthy of praise and admiration. Community members who come together to help the two boys to reach their dream. These are two main ingredients that are bound to make The East Moline Paletero Project a huge success.

According to Margarita Mojica, 7th and 8th grade ELL teacher at Glenview Middle School in East Moline, the Paletero Project was conceived as a way to help two of her students, Sergio Garcia and Jesus Gutierrez to raise $1600 so they could go in a class trip to Washington, D.C. in 2019 She explained that students in 7th grade receive information about the trip in May and students usually are very excited to go.

“For many students, including Sergio and Jesus, it will be their first time to leave the Quad Cities area,” Ms. Mojica explained.

Unfortunately, the cost of the trip is a little high for many families. That is why, Ms. Mojica started to discuss with her students the many ways one could earn money for the trip.

“We were throwing out ideas on how to earn money when we thought: Why not sell paletas? At first the students laughed at the idea imagining each other peddling a bike around the neighborhoods crying out ‘Paletas! Paletas!’, but the more we talked about it, the more students thought it would be a great way to earn the money needed,” Ms. Mojica told how the East Moline Paletero Project came to be.

This discussion was taking place in the last two weeks of the school year and Ms. Mojica knew that if this project was going to happen something had to be done quick. At the end only two students were seriously interested in going through with the Paletero Project.

“We decided on selling traditional Mexican paletas because it’s a sweet and cool summer treat and because we do not have paleteros on bikes or with a pushcart selling paletas in East Moline, the boys would have a corner on this market,” Ms. Mojica explained with a laugh. She also added that this particular project is a “community effort.”

After the call for help with the Paletero Project was placed in a social media a few Glenview Middle School alums stepped up to help. Former students of Glenview Middle School Daniel Calderon and Kayne Debrobander, were still in 7th grade when they launched their bike refurbishing business. Now the two men work with cars.

“They instantly stepped up to help when a request for help was put out on social media. They bring an eye for detail that will jazz up the bike,” Ms. Mojica praised the community members who involved themselves with the Paletero Project.

Imad Majid is another former student who is currently resides in Charleston, SC and works for Boeing Company. After seeing the Facebook post Mr. Majid donated some money to get things rolling.

“This money will help pay for the popsicles to get the project going, Ms. Mojica explained how the Paletero Project will use the donated funds.

As soon as Jose Nuñez, an engineer at John Deere, heard about the East Moline Paletero Project he reached out and offered his help.

“It was with his help as well as help from Gerardo Velazquez that the boys will have an authentic Mexican paletero bike to use this summer. Jose and Gerardo bought the bike at an auction and have donated it to be used by Sergio and Jesus. Jose hopes to use the East Moline Paletero Project as a way to introduce engineering to Sergio and Jesus,” Ms. Mojica shared the reasons that made Jose Nuñez want to be part of the Paletero Project.

Abel Zertuche, a well-known community leader in East Moline, also helped Sergio and Jesus. The boys and Mr. Zertuche took time to prepare the bike for the paint job.

“He has taken the time to teach the two boys how to use hand tools and equipment and Abel has done all of this at his place of business, Zertuche One Stop Auto Repair in East Moline,” Ms. Mojica explained the role Mr. Zertuche played in this project.

And of course, as any business it is not enough to just have the right product and equipment, but as any business owner knows one must have a plan for making the business a success. This is where Greg Aguilar from the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce comes in. Mr. Aguilar is helping these young entrepreneurs to come up with business plan that will propel the Paletero Project to great success.

Another community member who came to the table to help Sergio and Jesus reach their dream was Cristina Sanchez-Lopez, owner of Country Style Ice Cream in East Moline. She donated freezer space where boys could store their popsicles. Also, thanks to Paleteria y Dulceria San Jose from 7th Street in Moline, the boys saved money by ordering the Mexican paletas they will sell at a wholesale price.

“And of course, Sergio’s and Jesus’ parents have been encouraging their sons to do their best when working on the bike or when learning about business. They have offered to help in any way possible,” Ms. Mojica added.

The Paletero Project is a truly beautiful project where various members of the community have come together to help hard working 8th graders make their dream of joining their class trip to D.C. come true. The boys are getting the necessary tools and important knowledge that will help them reach success easily, especially when they know that the whole community is supporting them in their venture.

“The boys are also learning about engineering, hands-on skills with tools, business and accounting skills. And more importantly, they are learning that they live in a caring community that roots for, encourages and supports young people. It would be wonderful to see Sergio and Jesus reach back to help other young people as they grow up,” Ms. Mojica shared her take on the Paletero Project and the future she hope Sergio and Jesus will have.

The East Moline Paletero Project is in no way a one time deal. Ms. Mojica expressed that the community member would love to see this project attract more young people because in a nutshell this project provides, “a wonderful way to learn about entrepreneurship and to earn money for academic opportunities.”

Ms. Mojica invites everyone in the community to support Sergio and Jesus by buying the popsicles (Paletas). Officially, the East Moline Paletero Project will start on July 4th in East Moline and they will also be at the Sunday Concerts at Runner’s Park stage in East Moline from 4PM to 8PM.

“Each popsicle will get them closer to earning their way to Washington, D.C.,” Ms. Mojica said.

If you wish to donate money to the East Moline Paletero Project you can do so to an account that will be open at Mississippi Valley Credit Union under the name East Moline Paletero Project: D.C. Bound. Also a PayPal link will soon be posted on the Facebook page East Moline Paletero Project: D.C. Bound. Please, follow the story and the progress the boys are making by joining their Facebook page East Moline Paletero Project: D.C. Bound.

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